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OpinionBoycott, Divestment & Sanctions (BDS)

CUNY resolution pushing BDS is wrong, hurtful and anti-Semitic

Such discriminatory and anti-intellectual policies do not belong in universities—or anywhere, for that matter.

The City University of New York (CUNY). Credit: Shutterstock.
The City University of New York (CUNY). Credit: Shutterstock.
Joelle Scheinin
Joelle Scheinin

In December, the CUNY (City University of New York) Law Student Government Association adoptedresolution sponsored by Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and the Jewish Law Student Association calling upon the administration to cut virtual and actual ties with Israeli academic institutions and businesses. The resolution also demonizes Jewish organizations, Israeli students and professors on campus.

Firstly, the resolution claims that Israel institutes “apartheid.” Let me be clear: There are no comparable circumstances in Israel. Between 1948 and 1994, the government of South Africa imposed racial segregation and insufferable societal and economic barriers for black South Africans. Since the founding of the State of Israel, the country’s declaration of Independence has protected the rights of all of its citizens, regardless of race, religion or gender.

At about 21 percent or one-fifth of the population, Arabs are the largest minority in Israel. Arabs serve in courts, work and live alongside other Israelis and have political representation; for instance, the current coalition government in Israel contains members of the United Arab List, also known as the Ra’am Party.

Unlike what the apartheid canard in the BDS resolution suggests, there are no separate bus stations, roads, shops, hotels, water fountains or restrooms for Israeli Jewish and Israeli Arab citizens anywhere in Israel. Furthermore, reports from organizations like B’Tselem and Human Rights Watch that speak to this effect have been thoroughly debunked.

Drafts of the resolution also attempt to frame the relationship between Israel and the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and Gaza as comparable to South African apartheid. This is also nonsense. Palestinians are not Israeli citizens. The mutually agreed Oslo Accords identify the Palestinian Authority as responsible for everything from civil and municipal services to security and water for Palestinian cities in the West Bank and Gaza. This has been the case for more than 26 years.

Despite this, drafters of the CUNY resolution have not directed any grievances or criticized the Palestinian Authority or Hamas, the latter a terrorist organization that usurped P.A. control of the Gaza Strip in 2007.

The CUNY resolution also alleges that Israel is committing “genocide,” a nonsensical claim countered by the exponential growth of the Palestinian population. Since 1948, the Palestinian Arab population has grown to more than 5.3 million people. So how can this be regarded as a genocide? Furthermore, they provide no evidence to support this libelous charge.

Ironically, Hamas unabashedly includes genocide as one of its stated goals. The Hamas Charter declares, “Israel will rise and will remain erect until Islam eliminates it as it had eliminated its predecessors. … Israel will exist … until Islam obliterates it.”

Finally, what does this resolution represent? The resolution features an unabashed endorsement of the anti-Israel BDS movement. This should be a red flag to anyone. BDS co-founder Omar Barghouti has publicly called for the elimination of the world’s only Jewish state and defended “violent resistance,” a dog whistle for terrorism against innocent Israelis by extremists. Solely, the latter remarks should reveal how ruthlessly anti-Semitic this movement is, and how it goes against the values of justice and human rights.

BDS drives the harassment of Jewish students on campuses all around the United States. How is this justice? The boycott on companies and academic institutions with ties with Israel has nothing to do with justice. Justice is achieved in a world where movements such as SJP or BDS turn their attention to the real oppressors of the Palestinian and Israeli people, Hamas and other terrorist organizations.

Such discriminatory and anti-intellectual policies do not belong in universities—or anywhere, for that matter. Education should not be censored; anyone should be free to choose where they pursue their studies. Being stripped of the right to participate in numerous academic institutions does not solely create a detriment to the current students but sows seeds of division for future generations.

As an Italian Jew, surprisingly, in Europe, I never experienced anti-Semitism. This changed when I decided to pursue my studies in Israel. During Israel’s 11-day conflict last May with Hamas in Gaza, dubbed “Operation Guardian of the Walls,” I posted daily factual updates of the violence—namely, the fact that more than 4,000 rockets were launched from Gaza towards Israeli population centers. Unfortunately, this did not generate the support I expected from my friends. Instead, it was the complete opposite. My Instagram was flooded with a backlash of anti-Semitic rhetoric, such as unrightfully referring to Israel as an “apartheid” state and calling me a “f***ing Zionist.”

This resolution is the epitome of indiscriminate hate for the Jewish people. Beneath a thin veneer of social justice and a feigned “concern” for human rights lie countless falsehoods. This is not an abstraction as an Italian-Jewish student living and studying in Israel. I am who they seek to turn into a pariah. They want to undermine my right to participate and contribute to academia and malign the world’s only Jewish state.

Joelle Scheinin is a 2021-22 CAMERA Fellow studying at Reichmann University in Herzliya, Israel.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.

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