(June 3, 2020 / JNS) At George Washington University in the heart of Washington D.C., Ilana Feldman, the school’s vice dean, called upon the American Anthropological Association to boycott Israeli academic institutions. Instead of the university administration denying the volatile aspect of an action by one of their faculty members, they have defended her position as showing great “leadership … and respect for and commitments to all students.”
This notable display of discrimination has permeated institutions of higher education throughout America. The culprits of such vitriol have clear agendas—to isolate, demonize and viciously attack the Jewish state and its supporters. They officially brand this form of institutional hatred as the BDS movement. On college campuses, the infiltration and vilification have reached startling success. They target any supporter of Israel, democracy and the free exchange of ideas, arguing that any dissent from BDS dogma must be silenced.
It’s time that universities lead with greater authority and integrity. At what point will they begin to recognize that the BDS movement has compromised the safety of all college students? A college campus that sits back and allows for such ruthless hatred is merely curtailing democracy and academic freedom. We have reached a tipping point, and it is time for sweeping change. Every university must denounce the BDS movement and block any bylaws that subjugate proud supporters of Israel. Now is the time for higher learning to stand for higher understanding.
Israel is a beacon of democracy, holding qualities treasured by the United States, standing for freedom of speech, independent media, human rights and gender equality. The nation is flourishing in the regions of technology, agriculture and medicine. Why would university officials encourage the demonic destruction of these advances happening on campus? Higher education is about opening doors, yet today, it is clear that we are shutting doors.
The BDS movement cloaks itself in the passionate language of social justice and under the guise of “human rights.” Yet it veers off into hateful tropes and depicts Israel as a colonial presence in the Middle East with no claim to the land. BDS followers aim to disintegrate the very existence of the Jewish state by isolating and reversing any goodwill towards Israel through economic, cultural, academic and political means. How do humanitarians sit idly by and watch this unfold?
This well-funded and well-organized operation has expanded its reach with stealth tactics and fanatical operatives, all aimed to annihilate Israel and its supporters. BDS founder Omar Barghouti has admitted that “we oppose a Jewish state in any part of Palestine.” This facade must be exposed; BDS supporters seek the destruction of Israel.
Of course, no country, Israel included, is above criticism or even condemnation. In fact, it is vital to have conversations about how Israel can and should do better. College campuses are home to a broad range of opinions and perspectives, and are preeminently the appropriate place to raise issues and debate opinions on foreign policy and peacekeeping issues. But the usage of psychological warfare and demonization tactics that occur by BDS supporters on campuses are despicable acts of anti-Semitism. A 2019 study by AMCHA revealed the staggering conclusion that colleges promoting BDS are three to eight times more likely to have anti-Semitic incidents resulting in Jewish students being harmed. The freedom of thought in academia is not a license for acts of discrimination.
Without comprehensive legislation intact to block BDS, universities are used as victims to promote economic leverage against Israel. Universities need to do better to ensure that the prestige of their institution is not invoked in actions where the primary thrust is the demonization of Israel. According to the AMCHA initiative, condoning terrorism and violence against Israel is only rising. Measures must be taken to combat these malicious actions before it’s too late. Universities cannot afford to endure the regret of inaction on behalf of their students.
If we continue to go down this road of continuing to permit acts of BDS on college campuses, they will mold into places of stale ideological conformity and indoctrination, rather than serve their purpose: to be places of discovery and intellectual advancement. The time is now to call upon universities to ensure the opposition of acts of BDS. We need to encourage students, faculty and alumni to withdraw communal and financial support from institutions that are hosts for this movement. Let’s use our voices to remind universities of their values and take a stand for the greater good of higher education. We must band together to forge ahead to discourage this evil.
Gabi Golenberg is a student at the University of Southern California in the Annenberg School who has interned as Israel advocacy and education organizations StandWithUs and AIPAC. She is also an intern at Hillel at USC.
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