Feb. 17, 2016
Titled: “Anti-Semitism in Action” in the paper edititon
At McGill University, the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) zombie has returned.
For the third time in less than two years (and the fifth time in seven years), anti-Zionist crusaders are on the warpath. A motion calls on the Students Society of McGill University at their winter general assembly on Feb. 22 “to support any (BDS) campaigns on campus and to pressure the McGill board of governors to divest from corporations ‘complicit in the occupation of the Palestinian territories’.”
In some circles, the hatred of Israel is so fierce, it can derail activists from attending to the causes they allegedly represent.
Similar motions in the Fall of 2014 and March of 2015 were, respectively, shelved indefinitely and failed on a secret ballot. Yet here the anti-Zionists are again. Clearly they hope to wear down the student body to the point of indifference or numbed acceptance.
The vehicle for this latest anti-Israel motion is the McGill BDS Action Network, which consists mainly of members of a group advocating Palestinian human rights and is endorsed by the McGill Black Students’ Network, McGill Students for Feminism, the McGill Syrian Students’ Association, the environmental activist group Divest McGill and the Union for Gender Empowerment.
No thinking person can avoid noting the irony in these names. Environment? Israel leads the world in agricultural sustainability, water conservation and arid-land research, while its neighbours pump non-renewable oil in increasing quantities. Gender rights? Israel is the only country in the entire Middle East that accords equal rights to women and gays.
And the Syrian Students Association? More people have died in the past year in Syria than have died in the entire Arab-Israeli conflict in the last 65 years, and for reasons that have nothing to do with Israel. Why does the Syrian Students Association not direct its activist energies in support of their ethnic brethren, or the Christians and Yazidis who will never be able to return to their ancestral homes? Welcome to the topsy-turvy world of Western progressivism, where hatred of Israel is so fierce it can derail activists from attending to the causes they allegedly represent.
The McGill BDS Action Network (MBAN) is typical of a new, strategical campus process. First start a new group — like MBAN — and build relationships with other minority groups. Bustle around campus putting up anti-Israel displays and sponsoring meetings filled with emotional messages of oppression, colonialism and/or racism. Then cultivate student leaders reluctant to be caught out of step with campus politics.
There are presently BDS resolutions in play all over North America, Britain, Australia and South Africa. They know that companies like Google and Microsoft will never divest from Israel. They know Israel is flourishing economically and their resolutions, even if they pass, will have no effect on Israel’s economy. No matter, because today’s activists are playing the long game.
At the University of Washington, BDS demanded the university divest from Caterpillar Corp., which supplies bulldozers to the Israel Defence Forces. The U of Washington doesn’t actually hold Caterpillar stock, but BDS is investing in the future. The student leaders of today are the political leaders of tomorrow. Winning them over now ensures a sympathetic ear down the road. Relentlessly driving home the anti-Israel message will, they hope, inculcate a permanent bias.
This is classic anti-Semitism in action. Boycott proponents see Israel as not simply wrong, but sinful, as well. And in their view, sins can only be redeemed by the destruction of the state in which they breed.
It’s irrational and the opposite of democratic, yet campus administrations, so quick to empathize with other minority grievances, hesitate to acknowledge this true evil in their midst. As former Harvard University president Lawrence Summers said in an address on academic freedom, “the general failure of American academic leaders to aggressively take on the challenge posed by the Boycott, Divestment, Sanction movement represents a consequential abdication of moral responsibility.”
These resolutions are not an example of “freedom of speech.” They are designed to normalize the pernicious idea that Israel’s right to exist, alone among nations, is contingent on world opinion of its moral worth, and to prevent, amongst other things, the free exchange of ideas and research with Israeli universities. It is past time that McGill and other university boards of governors put a stop to this hateful, and institutionally corrosive, psychological pogrom.