While we never hear it honestly from our daily news sources, and we hear about the Academic boycotts, and BDS (Boycott Divestment and Sanctions) campaign against Israel, the divestment strategy in particular is failing this past decade.
Across college campuses, SJP (Students for Justice in Palestine) attempts to divest from the Israeli economy, and only the Israeli economy, in order to ‘bring it to its knees’, but intelligent college students see right through it. Unfortunately, the divestment campaign has succeeded at UC Riverside and Wesleyan University, but many more campuses have seen the light and have condemned or fought back against these insidious attempts to destroy the Jewish State.
The student government does not have the power to control university investments. What they are actually doing is voting whether or not to draft a referendum recommending to the administration that they divest from companies ‘profiting from the Israeli Occupation’. This is entirely symbolic and has no economic success across the board; no university, even where this has passed has taken it up. In fact, Israel’s GDP, since the creation of the BDS campaign has doubled.
BDS has been active on college campuses since 2005, with the divestment campaign being central for the past 5 years; in the last 10 years or so, there has been zero financial success on the university level in the divestment campaign.
Furthermore, this year alone, both the student governments of University of New Mexico and the Loyola University of Chicago passed divestment referendums, which resulted in a reversal for the former and a veto for the latter. Understanding that the pro-Israel community had no ability to defend its position, and realizing the flawed argument, the Graduate and Professional Student Association (UNM) reversed its divestment resolution. Furthermore, last month, the Associated Students for the University of Mexico voted down a similar resolution.
Fortunately, these are not isolated cases:
- At the University of California Davis Campus, divestment failed, narrowly, but was defeated nonetheless.
- At Cornell University, the Divestment Resolution was firmly tabled indefinitely by a vote of 15 in favour of its permanent removal from the agenda of the student government.
- The University of California at Los Angeles has come to be one of the most contentious universities for the Israel debate. On May 14th, 2014, UCLA released a statement condemning SJP’s attempts to silence pro-Israel leadership. Furthermore, at UCLA, the divestment campaign was defeated in February of 2014 by a vote of 7:5 after alumnus, Ben Shapiro, related BDS to anti-Semitism.
- At UC Santa Barbara, on April 11, 2013, after a marathon hearing, lasting 14 hours, the BDS resolution was again defeated. At UCSB, the referendum was defeated by a margin of 11:10:1
- At the University of Michigan, students braved intimidation and anti-Semitism in order to defeat a BDS resolution. At UM, it was considered taboo to be pro-Israel, an absurdity that died with the defeat of a vicious BDS referendum on March 27th, 2014, by a vote of 29-9.
- Arizona State University, on March 22, 2014, was added to the list of schools where the resolution had been tabled indefinitely. Though the resolution had amassed nearly 500 signatures, the student government saw through the blatant attempt to destroy the Jewish State and condemned SJP.
- At San Diego State, with little press coverage, a divestment resolution was defeated in April of 2014. There has been very little coverage thus far regarding this defeat of divestment.
- At Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the resolutions were defeated before they were even brought up. Brought to the attention of university officials by pro-Israel students, any talk of immoral divestment was quickly shut down by university officials.
- At the University of Washington, on May 21, 2014, a divestment resolution was destroyed in a vote of 59 against to 8 for, with 11 abstentions. This was even with a call to begin the discussion on Passover, thereby preventing a Jewish student presence in the debate. Pro-Israel blogger, Elder of Ziyon said, “This wasn’t just a defeat – this was a rout. This year was supposed to be the year of divestment. The BDSers planned to pass many resolutions at universities across the country, and they targeted the most liberal and sympathetic campuses they could. In nearly every case, they lost. The fact that it happened in one of the most leftist areas of the country, near where Rachel Corrie lived, speaks volumes on how BDS has lost steam in places it formerly appeared to be dominating.”
So how did SJP and the BDS movement choose to respond to their continuous failures? Have they slowed down, or changed their rhetoric? No. Instead, in the case of Hampshire College, they lie regarding their ability to create change.
As the first college to publicly divest in the 1980s from South Africa, Hampshire is seen as a ‘symbolic prize for divestment organizations’ like SJP. For this reason, after the University refused to divest in 2008, SJP in 2009 created a story claiming that Hampshire was the first United States University/College to divest in the State of Israel.
Much to the dismay of SJP, after a short period of time, Hampshire’s President Hexter stated, in no uncertain terms: the school had not divested in Israel, the school is continuing to invest in Israel, the college will in future perpetually invest in Israel, and it is unacceptable for SJP to speak on the college’s behalf.
So, as we hear about resolutions coming to the table regarding boycotts, divestment and sanctions on the Jewish State, we must remember a few things:
One, this is entirely symbolic and SJP has no ability or right to force a university to divest in Israel.
Two, SJP and other boycott activist organizations have failed far more than they have succeeded.
Three, though SJP has failed again and again, we can never end our fight to speak the truth. If we do not speak against even these non binding divestment votes, universities may choose to actually divest, seeing that there is no significant voice protesting against such action.
Four, boycotts do not create peace; they only serve to harm the Palestinian population we all so desperately seek to assist.
Five, peace may come when talks ensue, but talks won’t continue until Israel has partners in their quest for peace.
Also published on the Committee for Accuracy in Middle Eastern Reporting in America (CAMERA) blog in focus
Seth Greenwald is an intern at the Committee for Accuracy in Middle Eastern Reporting in America (CAMERA) and a student at Clark University. Seth can be reached at Sgreenwald@clarku.edu