Richard L. Cravatts

An Academic Union Mobilizes Against Israel

Seeming to give credence to Orwell’s wry observation that some ideas are so stupid that only an intellectual could have thought of them, an open letter by “teaching assistants, tutors, and other student-workers at the University of California represented by UAW 2865” was recently published urging “support [of] the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement against public institutions and corporations that profit from occupation and apartheid.”

The Joint Council of the UAW 2865, the group who wrote the open letter, is a body made up of 83 elected officers of the student-worker union at the University of California, with some 13,000 members. According to the letter, UAW 2865 intends to cooperate with other BDS campaigns, such as “the statewide University of California Student Association and the student governments at UC San Diego, UC Irvine, UC Santa Cruz, UC Berkeley and UC Riverside, all of whom have passed resolutions in favor of divestment.”

Typical of attempts to demonize Israel as a part of a sustained and increasing call for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS), the Union’s open letter is astounding in its contortion of history, its exclusive focus on the alleged crimes and transgressions of Israel, its false accusations about fact and currents in Gaza, and its complete whitewashing of any complicity in the current conflict on the part of Hamas or the Palestinians themselves.

“We believe it is our duty as a labor union to support our Palestinian counterparts,” the letter states, groups who “call for a final end to the crimes and oppression against us, [including] [a]rms embargoes on Israel, sanctions that would cut off the supply of weapons and military aid from Europe and the United States on which Israel depends to commit such war crimes…[and] Boycott, divestment and sanctions, as called for by the overwhelming majority of Palestinian civil society in 2005.”

Putting aside the false and unproved charge that Israel regularly commits war crimes as it defends itself from unceasing assault from jihadist foes and terrorist groups intent on murdering Jews and dismantling the Jewish state, one might question why the UAW 2865 feels compelled to answer the call to support Palestinian labor unions, specifically, and not unions in countries where actual suppression of dissent, academic freedom, and scholarly inquiry are prevalent—China, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, and others, for example. What do they think will be the end result of depriving Israel alone of arms and the means of defending its citizens?

And what is the nature of “Palestinian civil society” that has so motivated the Union to take a stand against the region’s only functioning democracy with a transparent government, free press, and more human rights for its Arab citizens than they would enjoy in any surrounding country? Is this the civil society that raises its children to despise Jews and urges them to grow up to become martyrs who murder Israelis in the name of jihad? The society that names summer camps and town squares after suicide bombers who have murdered Jewish civilians? The people who elected the terrorist organization of Hamas, a group dedicated to murdering Jews and destroying Israel, and who have bombarding Israeli towns from Gaza since 2005—more than 10,000 rockets and mortars—in an attempt to accomplish these objectives? The society that worships death and uses women and children as human shields, caring more about shaming Israel than in saving the lives of its own citizens?

The Union’s open letter, of course, never mentions Hamas, or its genocidal charter and mission to kill Jews and extirpate Israel. It ignores that repeated effort of Israel’s many enemies to destroy the Jewish state and attack it in military and terroristic assaults. It characterizes the security fence built by Israel to defend its citizens from terrorist attacks (and which has effectively reduced terrorism deaths by 90 percent) as an illegal “apartheid wall,” rather than a necessary defense against those who wish to murder Israeli citizens.

Instead, the Union repeats the historically-false tropes of “the current situation in Palestine,” which “is one of settler-colonialism,” and in which “The Israeli state enforces an apartheid system, illegally privileging one ethnic group over another.”

There was, of course, never a country or sovereign state named Palestine, and the Union’s reference to it as if it was a country that was colonized by Jews arriving from Europe in 1948 is a misreading of history and a falsehood. So, too, is the slur that Israel enforces a system of apartheid, or that its government supports or condones racism as a formal policy. The twenty percent of non-Jewish Arabs and Christians who are citizens of Israel enjoy all civil and human rights as any Israeli citizen.

Most alarmingly, the Union’s letter asserts that not only are Israel’s efforts to defend itself from genocidal attacks by its Arab neighbors unjustified, but that Israel’s aggression has spread world-wide and is negatively affecting other “oppressed” people. “Israeli arms, military and police training tactics,” the letter reads, “tested on Arab people in the region, have both historically and today been used to suppress peoples’ movements, displace indigenous peoples, and criminalize people across Asia, Africa, and Latin America.”

The Union may believe “that as student and labor organizers, we have a duty to stand by principles of anti-oppression organizing” and they should “also recognize that here in the United States we have our own systems of structural racism and settler colonialism to resist and dismantle,” but the singling out of Israel for condemnation, absent a balanced and factually and historically-correct assessment of both parties in the conflict is intellectually-dishonest, one-sided, and in violation of principles of scholarly debate and inquiry. It is also alarming that the group of instructors not only collectively are clearly radicalized against Israel and see the conflict from only the Palestinian point of view, but also that they are dedicated to promulgating this toxic viewpoint in their teaching in the university classrooms of California.

The proposed boycott by the Union also seems to be in violation of the University of California’s own regulations, as outlined in Education Code Section 92000-92001, stipulating that “No person shall, without the permission of the Regents of the University of California, use this name, or any abbreviation of it or any name of which these words are a part . . . [t]o display, advertise, or announce this name publicly at, or in connection with, any meeting, assembly, or demonstration, or any propaganda, advertising, or promotional activity of any kind which has for its purpose or any part of its purpose the support, endorsement, advancement, opposition, or defeat of any strike, lockout, or boycott or of any political, religious, sociological, or economic movement, activity, or program [emphasis added].”

If the instructors and teachers of the Union truly wish to create a Palestinian civil society, perhaps they might want to address some of the pathologies of Palestinian society and law, and not solely focus on Israel’s perceived defects, and work to bring both parties—Jews and Arabs—together with a two-state solution, where Israelis and Palestinians live side by side in peace.

About the Author
Richard L. Cravatts, Ph.D., a Freedom Center Journalism Fellow in Academic Free Speech and President Emeritus of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, is the author of the forthcoming book, The Slow Death of the University: How Radicalism, Israel Hatred, and Race Obsession are Destroying Academia.