BDS resolutions a disgrace at New York University

The Jewish Week has just reported that not one but two Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions resolutions passed recently at New York University.

This is an absolute disgrace. NYU has more Jewish undergraduates than any other private university in America. That these BDS resolutions have been voted in by the student union betrays not only growing anti-Semitism in the very heart of New York City, but an utter lack of leadership among the Jewish campus professionals and students.

This is something I wrote about extensively in the New York Observer when my son was an NYU undergraduate before joining the IDF, where he currently serves as a lone combat soldier. Our family is in Israel visiting him for Passover.

How could rabbis on campus not mobilize the Jewish students to oppose the BDS resolution? How could approximately 6,000 Jewish students allow Israel to be maligned on their campus in such an extreme way?

The sole purpose of BDS is to destroy Israel. It has no interest whatsoever in Palestinian rights. If it did, it would be boycotting Egypt for destroying hundreds of Palestinian homes on the Gaza border in October 2014 to stop Hamas from smuggling weapons. If BDS was about Palestinian rights, it would be boycotting Mahmoud Abbas for becoming a dictator and running a kleptocracy in the Palestinian Authority. If BDS were about Palestinian rights, it would be boycotting Hamas for its honor killings and assassinations of Palestinians who protest its brutal rule.

BDS has no interest in protecting Arab life. If it did, it would be boycotting Syria for murdering 250,000 Arabs.

BDS has no interest in protesting an occupation. If it did, it would be boycotting China for occupying Tibet since 1950.

BDS has no interest in promoting Arab human rights. If it did, it would be divesting from Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, Qatar, Syria, Lebanon, and every other Arab country where Arabs are denied the most basic rights like freedom of press, freedom to protest their government, and the freedom to vote, all of which are guaranteed to Arabs only in Israel.

BDS trades in anti-Semitism. Its primary objective is the economic destruction of Israel — the world’s only Jewish state and the Middle East’s only democracy.

So why aren’t the Jewish students and Hillel and Chabad openly fighting BDS at NYU?

Pressure must come from pro-Israel donors to NYU to stop the rampant Israel hatred and anti-Semitism that is coming to define New York University — a school that sits in the middle of a city with more Jewish residents than any other.

For BDS to pass in “Jew York” betrays a Jewish unwillingness to stand up for Israel.

I have a question to my esteemed rabbinical colleagues at Chabad of NYU, Hillel at NYU, and many other Jewish organizations that exist to promote Judaism and the State of Israel on campus.

Really? We were outmaneuvered by a group of students from Justice in Palestine, a group that is tiny in comparison to the Jewish student population?

Guys — and I say this very respectfully — do you not understand that BDS passing at your campus brings you discredit? Don’t you understand how this just emboldens Israel’s enemies, making them feel that nothing is beyond their reach? If they can pass BDS resolutions in New York, then what’s to stop them for passing them in New Orleans, St. Louis, and Seattle?

When my son Mendy first started at NYU in September 2014, Mahmoud Abbas gave a speech at the Cooper Union Great Hall to a group comprising mostly NYU students. Most estimates of those who attended assume that hundreds of Jewish students were present. At the speech Abbas lodged his blood libel against Israel, fraudulently and brazenly alleging that Israel perpetrated a genocide of the Palestinians during the Gaza war earlier that summer.

And what was the reaction to his disgusting lies about the Jewish state and the Jewish people? About 22 standing ovations.

If you want to know how he got away with it, consider this conversation, which I had with a student who is a pro-Israel activist on campus. I asked him why he attended the lecture. Why had he not joined my son Mendy and six of our other children, who were virtually the only ones to protest Abbas’ lies and speech outside the hall? He told me, “I went in to lodge my own form of protest. When all the other students gave Abbas a standing ovation, I continued to sit.”

I’m sure Abbas was devastated.

That’s what sometimes passes for Jewish student protests at NYU.

Mendy spent the next few months organizing massive counter-events to Abbas’ libel, like bringing Elie Wiesel and Ambassador Samantha Power to respond to the false accusations of genocide in the very same hall. He brought 800 people to hear Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, Ron Prosor, deliver an eloquent rebuttal of these disgusting lies about the Jewish state. Mendy organized large demonstrations against the Israel apartheid wall and Israel apartheid week, and he held an Israeli flag aloft during the entire speech of Janin Zoabi, the Arab Israeli MK who is one of the world’s foremost Israel-haters. Zoabi lost her cool in response and said that Jews were stupid, thereby demonstrating that she is not just anti-Israel but deeply anti-Semitic as well.

These kinds of effective, in-your-face peaceful demonstrations that never disrupted SJP events but called on Jewish students to stand proudly for Israel is exactly what is needed at NYU. There has to be a public and overt Jewish presence that galvanizes Jewish students to stand up for Israel.

It will happen only if the Jewish leadership on campus overcomes its fear of being labeled controversial and stands up proudly for Israel, motivating both Jewish and non-Jewish students to follow suit.

Gentlemen. Ladies. This is your job. You’re communal professionals, and the students need your leadership.

And as Hillel famously said in the Talmud, if not now, when?

About the Author
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach is the founder of This World: The Values Network. He is the author of Judaism for Everyone and 30 other books, including his most recent, Kosher Lust. Follow him on Twitter@RabbiShmuley