Ohio State’s Undergraduate Student Government should be a place to better our campus for students and faculty as we work together to resolve issues that we face on campus. Ohio State is supposed to be a place for all to feel welcomed and to learn, not the place to be having complex foreign policy discussions. USG is not, and never will be, the place to try to implement a blatantly anti- Semitic policy that is wishful at best.
The Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, or more commonly known as BDS, is an effort to divest money and connections from companies because of their ties and work with the State of Israel and simply within Israel’s borders. Oftentimes presented as a grassroots effort, BDS is a nationally coordinated campaign to delegitimize the State of Israel and increasingly polarize the conversation around Israel. Put simply, BDS is divisive, anti- Semitic, and wholly unproductive. Now, practically, what does BDS on campus mean for the Ohio State University and all Ohio State students?
It means a couple things. First and foremost, it makes Jewish students feel unwelcome and disrespected on their own campus. According to this study conducted by The Mellman Group and Jewish Electorate Institute, 91% of Jews support Israel. For many people, Israel is intertwined with their Jewish identity, and an attack on one feels like an attack on both. This means that when Israel is attacked, especially when it is singled out, those students also feel attacked. In a time in which we see ever increasing anti-Semitism, especially in events like the tragedy that unfolded in Pittsburgh only a few short weeks ago, Jewish students are increasingly searching for a place where they can feel safe in their identities.
As a Jewish student, it’s clear that BDS is anti- Semitic. For the past few years at Ohio State, proponents of BDS have argued that BDS is not anti- Semitic, especially how it is presented on our campus. However, just as any other group has the ability to define what discrimination is to them, the only people that get to define anti- Semitism are Jews themselves. Only Jewish students have been told that they shouldn’t vote on BDS related issues as it’s a “conflict of interest”, invoking centuries-old stereotypes and prejudices against Jews. At UCLA, a Jewish student was initially denied a spot on the student government judicial board for her involvement with Jewish organizations, due to “divided loyalties.” At UC Santa Cruz, the president of their undergraduate student government was told that he must abstain from a BDS vote due to his Jewish identity and the “Jewish agenda” that got him elected. This anti- Semitism is especially prevalent in the version of BDS being brought up by OSU Coalition for BDS this year, as it targets Israel more directly and harsher than any version of BDS we have seen on our campus before.
BDS eliminates the ability to have a much-needed conversation about Israel. Like any country, Israel is a complex and multifaceted place. Israel has a wide variety of amazing food, culture, and diversity. Similarly, like any other country, Israel also has their own set of issues that they continue to work on. However, this complex discussion cannot happen with a full-stop call to remove any trace of Israel from our campus. There are legitimate ways and reasons to criticize Israel, and there are ways to express these criticisms without BDS. There is no nuance in BDS.
It inherently goes against the widely accepted 3Ds model of anti- Semitism. In this model, any attempt to delegitimize, demonize, or hold Israel to a double standard is considered anti-Semitic, and therefore discriminatory. By singling out Israel, BDS holds the only Jewish state in the world to a double standard while blatantly ignoring these same standards for other countries, such as China, Russia, or Iran. By singling out Israel in the global community, BDS effectively disguises anti-Semitism under the guise of social justice.
BDS places all responsibility for peace in the Middle East on Israel, rather than encouraging a solution created by both parties. It has been proven time and time again that peace cannot be enforced unilaterally. Peace requires all involved parties to come to the table, and BDS does nothing to encourage that. All in all, BDS is detrimental to students, ineffective, and has no place on our campus.
Sarah Disselkamp is a senior studying finance and Spanish at The Ohio State University and a 2018-2019 CAMERA fellow.