The eleventh-hour June 5th vote by Arizona State University’s student government to divest holdings in targeted companies that supply military equipment to Israel is part of a troubling trend that exposes dangerous radicalism on campuses by BDS proponents, disguised as an effort to achieve social justice for the Palestinians. In May, for instance, the student government at University of Massachusetts, Boston voted on a similar resolution to demand “that the UMass Foundation, Inc. divest its funds from Boeing Company and other entities that perpetuate and profit from war crimes and/or human rights violations,” those illegal acts, naturally, being perpetrated by Israel.

In November of 2011, the New York University chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine, in the same ideological vein, submitted an “Open Letter to TIAA-CREF CEO and President Roger W. Ferguson from NYU Faculty and Staff,” signed by over 70 members of the NYU community, which had as its purpose “to pressure TIAA-CREF into divesting its holdings in 5 key companies which profit from the illegal Israeli occupation and oppression of the Palestinians.” The effort signaled a shift in the tactics of the BDS movement away from simply boycotting academics, theater groups, or hummus, and instead attempting to strip Israel of its ability to defend itself, militarily, from those foes who are clearly more concerned with the extirpation of the Jewish state than they are with Palestinian human rights and nationhood.

Of course, no acknowledgement is ever forthcoming from divestment proponents as to the reasons why “illegal Israeli occupation and oppression of the Palestinians” exists in the first place as part of daily life for Israeli citizens as well as Arab ones. There is no mention of the fact that Israel’s so-called “brutal occupation” and its military incursions were necessitated by Arab aggression and terrorism, and that the use of defensive force has not been a random occurrence based on the whims of a bellicose, sadistic Israeli military.

Bellicose and sadistic? Israeli soldier at the Hawara checkpoint south of the West Bank city of Nablus (photo credit: Abir Sultan/Flash90)

Bellicose and sadistic? Israeli soldier at the Hawara checkpoint south of the West Bank city of Nablus (photo credit: Abir Sultan/Flash90)

In fact, by targeting firms that supply arms to Israel — a divestment ploy begun in a similar 2002 campaign at Columbia University — supporters are not taking the high moral ground they purport to seek; they are actually helping to achieve what Israel’s Arab foes have long wanted: a militarily weak Israel whose defenseless citizens can be massacred and, in the favorite exhortation of its jihadist foes, “driven into the sea.” More ironically, the divestment proponents who wish to hobble Israel’s military strength fall into the morally convenient trap of ascribing the root cause of terrorism not where it belongs — with the homicidal madmen who perpetrate it in the name of jihad — but once again to Israel, due to its very presence in the Levant and its perceived racist, territory-hungry, brutal, and oppressive character.

The ASU divestment call included an additional, rather odious, element that the earlier efforts had not included: Not only did students in this case demand “that ASU divest from and blacklist companies that continue to provide the Israeli Defense Force with weapons and militarized equipment,” but, they added, they would also target companies for divestment that “are complicit with the genocidal regime in Darfur.”

Irresistible barbaric excess

The conflation of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and the genocide being perpetrated against black Christians and animists in Sudan is morally incoherent, a grotesque inversion of the facts, and yet another disingenuous and repellent tactic in the BDS movement to demonize and delegitimize Israel. The killing fields of Darfur are the work of Arab Janjaweed, who, on behalf of the Bashir government, have been responsible, since only 2003, for the slaughter of some 400,000 innocents, the displacement of over 2,500,000 people, gang rapes of thousands of women and young girls, the decimation of entire villages, and a death toll that still reaches 5,000 monthly. Israel’s use of weaponry and military equipment to defend itself over its 63 years of existence has nothing in common with the Bashir government’s campaign to suppress and extinguish portions of Sudan’s own populace, based on internecine tribal and religious conflict.

But facts are not important in the BDS campaign. What is important, and effective, is being able to utter the words “Israel” and “genocide” in the same breath, just as the BDS movement, and other enemies of Israel on campus, regularly conflate the words “racism” and “apartheid” with Israel, and for the same reason: to position Israel as an immoral state, the cause of instability in the Middle East, an impediment to peace in the region, and the source of the radical Islamism that threatens the West. And while the campus demonizers of Israel are ordinarily silent when Muslims murder co-religionists or non-Muslims, the Darfur genocide represents such a barbaric excess that it has obviously proven to be irresistible for the divestment ideologues to equate Israel’s self-defense against external foes with Sudan’s internal, genocidal ethnic cleansing.

More significantly, the morally obtuse ASU students and other BDS supporters who have called for stripping Israel of its military protection — if they are truly interested in ending warfare — might well direct their concern about arms proliferation and military clashes at other of the region’s states and terrorist organizations, and not the only democratic nation and reliable American ally.

Syria, for example, where Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime has slaughtered over 5000 of the country’s citizens, has also been instrumental in funneling weaponry to terrorist groups intent on murdering Israelis. A 2008 US State Department report pointed out “that Syria provided political and material support to Hezbollah and allowed Iran to use Syrian territory as a transit point for assistance to Hezbollah, Hamas, [and] Palestine Islamic Jihad…among others, based their external leadership within Syria’s borders.” Syria’s internal problems have not prevented the transfer of weapons and intelligence; in fact, the rate has increased since the revolt. The IDF has claimed that Syria regularly trains Hezbollah on using advanced anti-aircraft weapon systems against Israeli targets.

A long history of funding terrorism. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran ((illustration: Arie Katz/The Times of Israel)

A long history of funding terrorism. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran ((illustration: Arie Katz/The Times of Israel)

Iran, of course, also has a long history of funding terrorism and fueling jihad in the Middle East, and particularly for any group or state interested in murdering Jews. The State Department report noted that “in 2008, Iran provided more than $200 million in funding to Lebanese Hezbollah and trained over 3,000 Hezbollah fighters at camps in Iran,” and that “since the end of the 2006 Israeli-Hezbollah conflict, Iran has assisted Hezbollah in rearming, in violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1701.1.”

Speaking at a 2011 rally, Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah’s secretary-general, boasted about the size of his group’s deadly arsenal, some 40,000 rockets and missiles aimed at Israel and one of the world’s largest stockpile of weapons. “We are growing in numbers,” Nasrallah crowed, and “our training is getting better and our weapons are increasing. And for those who are betting that our weapons are rusting, we say that our weapons are being renewed.”

Iran’s fingerprints are on the weapons and armaments flowing into Gaza to Hamas, as well. A 2011 State Department report from the Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism observed that “Iran increased the provision of medium-range rockets” and the unrelenting barrage of rockets and mortars from Gaza into southern Israeli towns “demonstrated technological advancements, and “the rockets could also be launched from greater distances and with larger warheads.

“In addition,” the report continued, “Israeli experts assessed that Hamas successfully smuggled Fajr-5 rockets from the Sinai Peninsula through tunnels into Gaza, and subsequently began producing these rockets in Gaza, which were capable of striking Tel Aviv suburbs.”

“Divestment campaigns and requests for institutional divestment,” a University of Wisconsin guide for BDS radicals (PDF) reveals, should ensure that “the argument is more directed towards questioning the nature of the exclusively-Jewish nature of Israel and the racist policies that allow the existence of such a project. This argument is far more effective and winnable than that of debating specific events and facts.”

But if misguided divestment proponents ignore “events and facts,” if they insist on promoting a campaign to strip Israel of its ability to protect its citizens from being murdered while ignoring the lethal arms buildup in the hands of terrorist organizations and rogue states, they will expose themselves, and their motives, as being disingenuous at best, and anti-Semitic and genocidal at worst.

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