Taking the D out of BDS

I graduated from UC Davis less than two years ago. Yet somehow this is already the second time the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement is attempting to pass a bill through the student government since I left. The bill is currently being discussed in various commissions before it is presented in front of the student senate. Being about 400 miles away from the action makes it difficult to have any effect. However, I have been following the situation and even watching some discussions at the commission meetings, thanks to the internet. After listening to people on both sides try to convey their arguments, I know what I would argue if I was able to be there.

In every argument it is easier to be on the offensive. If you are on the defensive, you need to present facts consistent with your argument that counter what the other side is attempting to persuade. In this case, the Israel supporters are obviously on the defensive side. I have noticed that most of the Israel defenders have spent their speaking time trying to persuade the audience why Israel is not an apartheid state or illegally occupying Palestinian territories. They continuously point out facts while those in favor of BDS just make absurd accusations. No matter how many facts Israel supporters present, it is not going to change the minds of those supporting BDS or even those on the fence who are feeling pressured to support BDS.

What Israel supporters must do to try to bring this movement down is go on the offensive. I am not necessarily talking about starting to make accusations about the Palestinians and stuff they have done either. While there are plenty of facts that can be used to do that, supporters need to go on the offensive without singling out any group.

I have heard BDS supporters say that the tax payers do not pay for the school to invest in companies that support occupation, apartheid, etc. Instead of arguing how Israel is not doing these illegal things, this accusation made me think of a totally different argument. With all the money that is sent to UC Davis and all other public universities, tax payers are paying to support one thing; education. Tax payers are not supporting the universities for students to spend large amounts of time arguing over a bill thats soul purpose is to single out a country, and in general, the Jewish people. Students on both sides are spending days upon days trying to prepare and make arguments for or against this bill. They are spending entire weeknights sitting at commission meetings so they can have their two minutes to speak, or even just so they can show there are people on their side. Before these meetings, both sides spend entire nights preparing what arguments they need to make and strategies they will use. Then after the meetings they spend another night discussing how it all went and what they can do to improve their arguments. Meanwhile, there are midterms supposed to be taking place, essays supposed to be written and studying supposed to be done.

So instead of trying to pass a bill that will not even have any authority other than making a political statement, these students need to stop worrying about making these arguments and start worrying about learning and succeeding in their classes. I can relate from personal experience how this affects studying habits. My last year at Davis, I hosted an event on campus which brought speakers from Israel. Due to a potential protest, I spent the couple of days prior, working on getting ready for the event. I also happened to have a midterm the day after the event and ended up having no time to study for it. This first hand experience made me realize even if you are passionate about a particular issue, the main reason you are at college is to receive an education. That seems to be what is forgotten here. Each side may feel very differently on this issue, but all the students are on campus for the same end goal; receive an education at one of the country’s most prestigious public universities. So let’s end this BDS madness, for the better of everyone.

About the Author
Zander Wold is a Jew from Los Angeles currently living in Haifa.