Dec. 22, 2015
BDS and Campus Politics: A Bad Romance – Mark Yudof (Inside Higher Ed)
- Today’s proponents of the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel on college campuses see their movement as a way of protesting Israel’s alleged mistreatment of Palestinians, its efforts to defend itself in a dangerous neighborhood and its purported colonialism. Yet their rhetoric corrupts the language of human rights and expropriates the words historically used to demean the Jew.
- At the University of California at Berkeley, a professor who attended a BDS debate reported that Israeli soldiers were accused of deliberately killing women and poisoning wells. In an age of exquisite sensitivity on some campuses to microaggression, or language that subtly offends underrepresented groups, the ironic toleration of microaggression against Jews often goes unnoted.
- In the words of Santa Barbara Hillel Rabbi Evan Goodman: “At a university, of all places, there must be space for legitimate political discourse and analysis….But when the one Jewish state in the world is obsessively singled out for condemnation, Jewish students recognize that their own religious and cultural identity is being called into question.”
- As former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers has observed, the impact if not the specific intent of the BDS movement is anti-Semitic. While nations like China, Iran, Russia, Syria and others get a pass on campuses, Israel is the sole object of BDS. There are many displaced peoples around the globe, many conflicts and many settler nations. The double standard for Israel yields suspicion about the real agenda.
- Most of all, I worry that the spirit of democracy may be withering on college campuses. Those who seek to silence campus speakers – as occurred most recently at the University of Minnesota, when pro-Palestinian protesters tried to shout down Israeli philosopher Moshe Halbertal – argue that they have a First Amendment right to drown out opponents.
The writer is president emeritus of the University of California.