As an undergraduate student at Concordia University in Montreal, I am called to take a position on several issues such as the austerity, the opening of a child care center on campus, or other matters related with our daily student life.

Last month, an 8th question was added at the last minute as follows: “Do you approve of the Concordia Student Union (CSU) endorsing the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel’s occupation of Palestine until Israel complies with International Law and Universal Principles of Human Rights?”.

Before I go further, I realize how for most of the students on my campus, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict seems like a never-ending and far away story, perhaps annoying for some while arousing passions for others.

I spent two years in the south of Tel-Aviv, close to Jaffa, where Jews and Arabs live side by side. I’ve met pragmatic Israelis and Palestinians in Jerusalem or Ramallah, who care more about the austerity or the rising cost of life than politics. I’ve also met tourists from France or the U.S. that would endlessly have these kind of arguments on every news headlines that would just ruin a party.

When I returned to Canada, I had two convictions: everything in the Middle East is “amplified,” and most people want to live in peace.

Palestinians & Israelis deserve the same right to live in dignity. I understand why some, who seek justice and a viable state for the Palestinians, supports the BDS. So why will I vote NO?

– Because the BDS is designed to serve the agenda of political groups who reject peace. It refuses compromise and asks Israel to accept every condition they impose, while it is very unlikely that any final peace deal will occur unless there will be compromise from both sides and unlike some activists mentions, it calls for a full boycott of every academic, cultural and economic institutions regardless if it’s in the West-Bank or inside of Israel. That is why Palestinian leaders such as Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas have publically condemned the BDS, which leads to no solution, misleads the public, but even worst, mislead the time, resources and money of their own volunteers and donators.

– This is a complex issue. No one who pretends to hold “THE truth about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict” should be taken too seriously. BDS’s statements are often presented with partial information. This attempt to exploit a conflict and impose a group’s opinion on the student body is unethical, prejudicial toward other communities and against the values of an open, honest debate, which has its place in university.

– The referendum question and the campaign is ambiguous: what “Israel’s occupation of Palestine” means? 1967 borders? Pre-1948? In fact, Omar Barghouti, a BDS key figure, is known for his refusal to recognize Israel. Even Norman Finkelstein (famous for his hostility toward the State of Israel and Israeli leaders) condemns the ambiguity of the BDS and called it a “cult”. How credible is a campaign that does not respect international law? (I must point out that although the CSU decided yesterday to change the question to a more neutral and non-biased version, it does not remove the damage that was done to the campaign for two weeks, as the vote has already begun for the upcoming three days).

BDS boycotts Israeli academic and cultural communities who are the most critical of the Israeli government and the best defenders of Palestinians’ rights. Excluding Israelis from the dialogue is non-sense. In other fields, Israel has contributed so much to science and technology that living in an “Israeli-made free” World would be almost impossible to do.

The BDS dehumanizes & alienates Israelis, it hurts Israeli-Palestinians relations by pushing extremists to “community downturn.” The conflict should be addressed, but in a fair and balanced way. The relative silence regarding current deadly conflicts in Syria or Iraq worsen the tendency to community downturn. Rise of the left and right extremism in both Israeli and Palestinian society opposed by the risk of a 3rd intifada do not need more prejudice, but more understanding.

We at Concordia University have a potential for positive action. Because ultimately, both Israel and Palestine must be part of the solution, we must say NO to BDS, and YES to diversity and inclusion; not only for Palestinians and Israelis, but for all those on our campus with Middle-Eastern origins and interests. I call upon anyone who shares the values of acceptance, dialogue and understanding, to join me in order to create this unique association. We can learn from each others. Beyond politics, we will include arts and culture.
Together, let’s take the lead in peacemaking actions.

“For it is often the way we look at other people that imprisons them within their own narrowest allegiances, it is also the way we look at them that set them free.” (Amin Maalouf).