The failure of the latest Israel divestment bill at UCLA made headlines after one of the students present launched into a sobbing meltdown. That video quickly made its way around the Internet, perfectly showcasing the kind of poisonous climate that the boycott, divestments and sanctions movement (BDS) brings with it. And if that wasn’t enough, pro-divestment students immediately began cyberbullying one of the Student Council representatives who they believe didn’t vote their way because he had been to Israel and had seen what it was like for himself.
But this piece is not about the fallout from the failure of this resolution. On February 13th, in the run up to the vote, a board member of Students for Justice in Palestine wrote an article in UCLA’s Daily Bruin explaining how voting for the bill should not be considered voting in support of BDS:
“We are only asking the Undergraduate Students Association Council to endorse divestment from five specific companies. Our divestment resolution, which neither calls for boycotts nor sanctions, should not be seen as necessarily a manifestation of the BDS movement as a whole. “
On the surface, this means very little. It’s been a standard operating procedure for BDS advocates to say anything to get a “yes” vote for their attacks on Israel. Their long pattern of breaking promises and spreading lies stretches back years. Most recently, UCLA’s SJP claimed that BDS had a victory when UC Berkeley’s student council passed a divestment resolution. Just like at UCLA, the student government at Berkeley had been told that the divestment bill had no formal connection to BDS. However, as soon as the resolution passed, proponents of BDS called it a “victory” for their movement.
That being said, this statement by SJP is still incredibly informative. They wrote this because they felt that they needed to disassociate their divestment resolution from the larger BDS movement in order for it to pass. Apparently even the name “BDS” carries all manner of negative associations. It is like a toxic cloud that hangs over everything even tangentially associated with the movement. Even its fellow travelers know that, and distanced themselves from BDS accordingly.
The BDS movement’s ulterior motives were exposed by the American Studies Association decision to impose an academic boycott on Israel, granting themselves academic freedom while denying it to Israelis. At first the leaders of the movement welcomed the outpouring of articles denouncing them, clinging fast to the maxim that there is no such thing as bad publicity. The trouble with this logic is that BDS is a movement that depends upon deception because its proponents have a lot to hide; namely, their desire to see Israel replaced by a Palestinian state.
The American people want a two-state solution and peace between Israel and the Palestinians. BDS supporters do not. SJP doesn’t either, but they are smart enough to keep that view to themselves most of the time. This fundamental disconnect with their audience is why BDS has failed to “reach in a broad public” in the words of one of the critics. A lot of fancy rhetoric and waving bloody shirts might be enough to convince a student council or two but if the movement wants to attract the mainstream support they are seeking, they need to be step into the sunlight eventually.
Advocates of BDS cannot make the genocidal comments by its leaders palatable, no matter how often they use buzzwords like “human rights” and “international law.” That is why the name of Omar Barghouti, who said “the two state solution…was never a moral solution to start with,” was so often cited during the debate at UCLA, to prove that the destruction of Israel was the ultimate goal behind the divestment resolution.
BDS advocates continue to lose when they are exposed as hypocrites, propagandists, and occasionally anti-Semites. Nevertheless, they view each loss as a victory because the supporters of Israel give them free publicity, they get a platform to attack Israel, and they believe this will allow them to (if nothing else) erode Israel’s image just a little bit more. But this article in the Daily Bruin shows that it may ultimately be the BDS movement that becomes marginalized in American society, as long it has brave opponents who are ready to speak the truth.