(February 3, 2021 / JNS) Despite all evidence to the contrary, detractors of Israel continue to make the case that forcing colleges and universities to divest from Jewish-owned businesses in Israel can somehow better the lives of Palestinians. Brown University has become the latest U.S. campus targeted by the BDS movement, and, as a Palestinian, I urge the Brown community not to fall for it.
Under the banner of “Brown Divest,” and spearheaded by the radical Students for Justice in Palestine, anti-Israel campus activists are pushing for the Corporation of Brown University, the institution’s governing body, to divest from what SJP calls “Israeli settler colonialism and apartheid” in a vote to take place this week.
Israeli “apartheid” is nothing more than a political slogan that has nothing to do with reality, however. I will be the first to acknowledge that conditions between Israel and the Palestinians are not perfect, but demonizing our Jewish neighbors is not the answer.
Far from having any measurable impact on Israeli policies, the most frequent outcome of BDS campaigns—wherever they appear—is to spark anti-Semitism and create hostile environments for Jews. They do nothing to improve conditions for Palestinians. On the contrary, they often have the opposite effect.
For all of the divisive rhetoric spurred by outside groups, Palestinians and Israelis are interdependent, particularly when it comes to economic matters. Attempting to punish Israelis for their supposed sins against Palestinians with divestment and sanctions actually harms Palestinians, tens of thousands of whom are employed in Israel and work for Israel-based companies.
By boycotting Israeli-owned businesses, BDS is actually jeopardizing the livelihoods of all Palestinians who rely on Israel for work. Take, for example, the hundreds of Palestinians who were laid off when the manufacturing company SodaStream was targeted by anti-Israel boycotts.
In 2015, under pressure from BDS activists, SodaStream closed its factory in the West Bank and moved to a new facility in the Negev desert. What did this accomplish other than 500 Palestinian workers losing their jobs?
SodaStream continues to grow and expand its product offerings around the world, while 500 Palestinian families lost their income. I challenge anyone to explain how, exactly, my people benefit from boycotting local businesses that provide good-paying jobs in our communities.
BDS exploits Palestinians, using us as a prop to demonize Israel and the Jewish people for the benefit of a political agenda that has nothing to do with us. If BDS were to become official policy for Brown University, it would go to show that it has fallen prey to BDS propaganda—not a good look for an Ivy League institution. The Corporation of Brown University must ignore Brown Divest’s demands and reject BDS.
Bassem Eid is a Palestinian human-rights activist, political analyst and journalist.
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