Today, the National Union of Students in Britain voted to adopt a policy of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions. Perhaps when universities re-start in the autumn, we should return with yellow stars sewn onto our clothes.
BDS targets Jews. It’s a fact. It’s not just an allusion to when the same tactics were used at a darker point in our history, it’s simply the case that BDS affects us. Israel is a part of my and many other people’s Judaism – to target it is to target us.
The motion at first has practical effects on Jewish students. It tries to prevent any kind of material or economic support for Israel, the country (not settlements and such). So to access the largest source of kosher food, Jews will have to violate the boycott. The Union of Jewish Students was quick to note that this has already happened in Manchester. Maybe that’s just the least of our worries. No doubt we’ll find kosher food from elsewhere.
Even if the motion’s practical impact is limited, the symbolic value is stunning. Zionism has just become a thought crime in the student world. Are we allowed to express our views? In public?
Zionism for many of us is not a mere political opinion. It can be a religious belief, a cultural heirloom, a treasured national impulse. For many if not most of us,, Zionism comes as a result of and firmly rooted in my Judaism. As a student, we are now commanded to Boycott, Divest from and Sanction at the very least aspects of our own religious, national and cultural affiliation – even if we’re not all Religious Zionists.
What’s next? Eylon Aslan-Levy, who has been working tirelessly against anti-Semitism since the current operation began warned us about this months ago:
Jewish societies will be pressured to cut all ties with Israel. When we refuse to do so (as I hope we will), we will be subject to vile calumnies and open accusations. Some will abandon Israel, others will be abandoned by their universities. It has happened before.
Anyone who maintains ties with Israel will be ostracised. This has already begun. Any ties with Israel and with Israelis will become taboo. Essentially, most Jews will have been placed outside of what is acceptable to our union. Now starts the era where it is questionable just to have relatives in Israel, let alone visit them.
Will the Shabbat services of Jewish societies be allowed to contain a prayer for the state of Israel? Will Jewish societies themselves be forced to renounce all connection to Israel and Zionism or be banished from campuses? Will Israeli students be allowed to take part in university life, or will Israeli academics be allowed to take up positions?
And after all that, how long is it till Jews ourselves are the targets of boycotts? The trenchant view of Jews as a fifth column, disloyal and dishonest is already spreading. Open anti-Semitism more and more brazenly rears its head across the continent. And now we know that Britain is no different.
In October I return to university. Maybe I should sew yellow stars onto my clothes already. It would be quicker.