Jay Solomon

Anti-Israel activists manipulate the rules because it’s all they’ve got left

A few months back, I wrote about some recent defeats suffered by those advancing Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel. At the time, I noted that BDS-ers are facing very tough times. That story continues today.

My colleagues at Hillel International – and, of course, their Canadian counterparts with whom I work closely – are at the forefront of the fight against this divisive, discriminatory and dishonest campaign. One that seeks to isolate Israel on the world stage, cripple it financially, and subject Israelis and those who support Israel to collective punishment, based solely on their nationality.

In a thoughtful piece posted on the Times of Israel on March 16, 2017, Shelley Kedar, Hillel International Vice President for Israel Education and Engagement, cited more evidence documenting the continuing trend of BDS failing to gain mainstream support on North American campuses:

Just last week, student coalitions at two major American universities organized the student populations to vote against referendums that would have urged the university leadership to divest financial holdings from any companies that do business with the Jewish state.

At Ohio State University, 4,084 students voted against an anti-Israel divestment referendum while 3,843 voted in favor, defeating the third anti-Israel campaign in three years. And at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, students voted down a similar divestment measure by a margin of 56.8 to 43.2 percent. 

She continued:

Not a single American university has boycotted Israel or divested funds from Israel’s business partners. And American universities are sending students to Israel in academic exchanges and welcoming visiting Israeli scholars with pride.

The same can be said for the growing number of Canadian universities that – with enthusiasm and optimism – continue to collaborate with Israeli academics, pursue study-abroad opportunities, and participate in fact-finding missions to Israel.

On the matter of Israel’s economy, the evidence against BDS is also compelling. Israel’s GDP is up 6.5%. Tourism to Israel has risen 25% over last year. And the start-up nation is flourishing, this month inking the largest-ever high-tech deal with technology giant, Intel.

Then we have the issue of King’s University College in London, Ontario. In the face of pressure to run a student referendum on BDS at King’s, the student union allowed a referendum to move forward but ruled that the language of a potential question on this issue could not use the loaded term ‘BDS.’ So, without using those three little letters, a referendum proceeded, with a completely one-sided question that singled out Israel regardless.

After months of back-and-forth politicking, 355 student members voted in favour of the resolution. At a school with approximately 3,500 students, this vote didn’t come close to reaching the 30% quorum necessary for such a referendum to be adopted by the council. For all those who follow democratic processes, the referendum failed.

But, this is where the real story of BDS ‘victories’ emerges. Instead of accepting defeat when the council decided not to run a question on ‘BDS,’ anti-Israel activists simply manipulated the language to make it just palatable enough to proceed. Then, when they lost that referendum, they released a statement:

After a long and vigorous debate, students at King’s University College in London, Ontario, voted 76 per cent in favour of boycotting and divesting from companies complicit in the Israeli occupation.

Spin if I’ve ever seen it.

Although no quorum was established, and they were not allowed to use the term ‘BDS,’ they again manipulated the rules – and, it seems, the council – and proclaimed the adoption of their one-sided agenda anyway. Their statement continues:

Following the outcome of the BDS referendum question and another successful referendum vote to divest from fossil fuels, the King’s University College Student Council (KUCSC) passed a Responsible Investment Sub-Committee resolution at their March 19 Annual General Meeting that brings these concerns to the King’s Foundation Board and the ethical investment and finance committee. The resolution also mandates the KUCSC research and write their annual Advocacy Paper on ethical investments and divestments that will include a five-year plan for ethical investing.

All this makes one wonder: why even have a vote?

The story of King’s is not unique. On countless campuses, we have seen anti-Israel activists and student unions ignore bylaws (or create new ones altogether), manipulate the rules, bully, or – put frankly – cheat in an effort to demonize Israelis. Why? Because it’s all they’ve got left.

Hillel International’s Shelley Kedar sums things up nicely:

Hostile anti-Israel activity on campus is scary. But the larger truth is that engaged pro-Israel students are successfully defeating these efforts. It is true that Jewish and pro-Israel students have had to learn to stand up to defend themselves on campus. And it is true that there are students on U.S. campuses who would boycott our homeland. But the reality is, we are soundly beating them.

About the Author
Jay Solomon is the Chief Advancement Officer for Hillel Ontario.
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