2018-2019 Cornell University CAMERA Fellow Avraham Spraragen

Last month I, Avraham, poured my heart out in an article for The Sun, entitled “Rejecting Boycott, Extending an Olive Branch,” describing my deep connection to the State of Israel and pleading with Cornell Students for Justice in Palestine to “exchange points of view in a respectful manner, rather than threaten BDS [Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions] and Israel’s destruction.”

SJP has shamefully chosen to persist with the latter divisive course of action by submitting S.A. Resolution 36 which “calls upon Cornell University to divest from companies profiting from the human rights violations in the Israeli occupation of Palestine.” SJP also posted a Facebook event, “Tell the SA: Divest from Israel,” and some members argued for BDS in a recent Guest Room column, “A Jewish Case for Divestment.”

Cornell University SJP holds a mock checkpoint (legalinsurrection.com)

My own love affair with the state that SJP callously labels “fascist-adjacent” began when at 13-months-old, I took my first steps on the Tayelet, or promenade, which runs along the Mediterranean seashore in Tel Aviv. For the reasons outlined below, Leonardo and I urge Student Assembly representatives to take a step towards protecting the Jewish safe haven and its dependents by voting against divestment at the April 11 S.A. meeting.

The authors of “A Jewish Case for Divestment” argue that “maintaining a Jewish majority in Israel” amounts to a “disturbing racial ideology.” Let’s dispel this perverse notion once and for all: Article 1 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights confers the “right of self-determination” upon the Jewish people, by which they may “freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.”

This right, exercised by the Jewish national movement, and by all other national movements, intrinsically precludes absolute cultural, ethnic, and religious neutrality. The difficult yet fundamental truth is that Israel would not retain its Jewish character if Jews were to lose their majority status.

The Palestinian national movement does not adhere to absolute neutrality either, nor should they be expected to. Per Article 4 of the Constitution of Palestine, Arabic is the official language of Palestine, Islam is the official religion of Palestine, and Sharia is the principal source of Palestinian legislation. Why then is Israel alone lambasted for designating Hebrew as its official language and the Jewish Sabbath as a national holiday?

Furthermore, Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state was enshrined into international law by the United Nations in 1947 with the adoption of Resolution 181. In addition, the preservation of Jewish nationhood is a protective measure against global antisemitism. Maintaining a Jewish majority in Israel is not a racist endeavor; it ensures that there is at least one country where Jews are not at risk of once again becoming a persecuted minority.

The United Nations Partition Plan adopted in 1947 (ukmediawatch.org)

Importantly, the Jewish character of Israel does not compromise its democratic values. As former Israeli Ambassador to the U.S., Michael Oren, writes, “In a region reeling with ethnic strife and religious bloodshed, Zionism has engendered a multiethnic, multiracial and religiously diverse society.”

Leonardo, a proud Mexican-American and self-identified Zionist, can attest to this extraordinary diversity. In the summer of 2018, Leonardo journeyed from his hometown of Laredo, Texas to the State of Israel. He found that Israel is as diverse as his tour group, which was comprised of fellow Latinos, Asian and African Americans, Christians and Muslims.

Indeed, the Israeli population is 20.9% Arab, 18% Muslim, 2% Christian, and 2% Druze, and 61% of Israeli Jews are non-white Mizrahim. On his trip, Leonardo visited the Tel Aviv Municipal LGBT Center, a safe space for Israel’s gay community, and the West Bank Mercaz Karama, or Dignity Center, an Arab-Israeli coexistence organization. “These Israeli values — empathy and togetherness — are the same as those of my Hispanic community back home,” Leonardo said.

Jewish statehood, which is assailed by the BDS movement, is therefore both legally and morally just.

SJP slanders the Jewish state

The multitudinous falsehoods in the pro-BDS column cannot be adequately responded to in the space allotted. Allow the following, however, to serve as an example of the depths to which SJP has sunk to vilify Israel: In a reprise of the abhorrent African sterilization myth of 2012, the authors claim that “Ethiopian Jewish immigrants to Israel” are “in some cases, sterilized upon entry to the country.”

This accusation, a variation of the medieval Jewish blood libel, was debunked in 2016 at the conclusion of a three-year investigation that found no evidence of forced injections. This despicable conspiracy theory, reminiscent of the infamous “Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” has no place at our University.

Similarly, S.A. Resolution 36 is riddled with blatant inaccuracies and gross mischaracterizations of the Jewish state: From grouping Israel with oppressive regimes such as Saudi Arabia (lines 30-31), where women’s rights activists are electrocuted, to equating the Israel Defense Forces with Hamas (lines 110-111), a U.S. and EU-designated terrorist organization that executes homosexuals, SJP’s resolution is logically fallacious and supremely offensive to the pro-Israel, and indeed pro-democracy, Cornell community.

To our esteemed S.A. representatives: Do not allow BDS, a self-proclaimed “movement for freedom, justice and equality,” to elude you as to its ultimate goal of destroying Israel. In the words of BDS co-founder Omar Barghouti, “Definitely, most definitely we oppose a Jewish state in any part of Palestine.”

In pursuit of this goal, SJP has besmirched the globally altruistic Cornell-Technion partnership (lines 99-108) and demands that Cornell divest its holdings from companies that enable Israeli self-defense against existential threats posed by terrorist organizations — Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and Hezbollah — as well as by the Islamic Republic of Iran.

BDS has proven counterproductive to Middle East peace and has only served to demean the Jewish state and her supporters abroad. Anti-Israel boycotts ironically impact diaspora Jewry more than their intended target, Israelis, by marginalizing pro-Israel students on college campuses, removing kosher food from grocery stores, undermining interfaith efforts, and requiring litmus tests for domestic political participation.

S.A. Resolution 36 is yet another attempt at demonizing Israel; Leonardo and I hope that reasonable minds will prevail on April 11 with a resounding defeat of the insidious #CornellDivest campaign.

Contributed by 2018-2019 Cornell University CAMERA Fellow Avraham Spraragen and Cornell University student Leonardo Brageda.

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