Divestment Resolutions at the University of California Encourage Anti-Semitism

Gabriella Hoffman
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Posted: Mar 25, 2013 9:07 AM
Divestment Resolutions at the University of California Encourage Anti-Semitism

The University of California system is living up to its reputation for being home to anti-Semitism.

Earlier this month, several campuses belonging to the University of California system passed legislation in their respective student governments calling for divestment from Israel. Resolutions decrying so-called “human rights violations” in Israel passed at UC-Riverside and UC-San Diego. UC-Irvine passed a similar bill last year in November. In 2010, UC-Berkeley passed a resolution in favor of divestment although it was vetoed by their student body president.

Divestment is a component of the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement by Palestinian activists in an effort to delegitimize the state of Israel. BDS’s goals are to promote the “Palestinian people’s inalienable right to self-determination” by “ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall”, “recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality,” and “respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194.”

On the surface, BDS appears to be benign and legitimate. Support for human rights in the Middle East? Why not! What could be wrong with that?

Upon further examination, one realizes that boycotting Israel and divesting from companies that do business with the lone democracy in the Middle East is counterproductive to achieving peace and promoting human rights. In fact, it is very dangerous.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center released a report on the BDS movement concluding that it is “a thinly-veiled, anti-Israel and anti-Semitic ‘poison pill.’” The report uses Natan Sharansky’s “three D’s” test and found the BDS movement to be anti-Semitic. The three D’s are double standards, demonization, and delegitimization.

BDS supporters decry so-called human rights violations in Israel but ignore true human rights violations elsewhere in the Middle East. BDS supporters routinely demonize Israel with sweeping comparisons to Nazi Germany and South African apartheid. More importantly, BDS supporters deny Israel’s right to exist.

The cornerstone of the BDS movement at the University of California and other campuses nationwide is “Israel Apartheid Week.”

“Israel Apartheid Week” describes itself as cause that “seeks to raise awareness about Israel's apartheid policies towards the Palestinians and to build support for the growing Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel campaign.” It is typically held during the first week of March or during Yom Ha'atzmaut (Israel Independence Day) in May.

Instead of advocating for peace in the Middle East, organizers of this week-long event target Jewish and pro-Israel students as “aggressors,” enablers of “apartheid,” and “Nazis.”

Students belonging to the Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and the Muslim Students Association (MSA) on campus display a mock “apartheid” wall and ask their classmates to condemn Israel for alleged human rights violations against Palestinians. Panels reading “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” and “Death to Israel” point to Israel being illegitimate, an agent of “apartheid,” and a human rights violator.

During my time at UC-San Diego, I tirelessly worked with classmates, professors, and community members to prevent the passage of divestment given the ramifications it boasted. Many of my friends and classmates felt unwelcomed on campus for being Jewish. It was also disquieting to see university departments and well-known campus groups side with the SJP and the MSA. Universities should not be center stage for the Arab-Israeli conflict--especially if they favor anti-Semitism.

There are many instances of anti-Semitism at the University of California. In 2010, a Jewish student at UC-Berkeley was rammed with a shopping cart for protesting “Israel Apartheid Week.” Swastikas have also been discovered at UC-Davis and UC-Irvine in recent years.

This trend is problematic. So why do the UC Regents continue to ignore the threat anti-Semitism poses to their students?

The University of California’s motto is Fiat lux--Latin for “Let there be light.”

For there to be light for years to come, darkness must be rooted out: anti-Semitism should not see the light of day on campus.