BY DOR CARPEL AND GIL BAR-OR
Coming from Israeli backgrounds, we’ve both had the struggle of supporting our homeland while at the same time fighting to end the continued occupation of the West Bank.
With grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins who live in Israel, our concern for the future of the country and each of its residents runs deep into our hearts. We believe that the occupation is a morally untenable reality that compromises the security and future of both Israelis and Palestinians. But we view divestment, which is an integral part of the international BDS – Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions – movement, as a harmful and ineffective tactic to end the occupation and enact lasting change in the region.
Since coming to UCLA, we have been troubled by the polarized debate on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Public conversation only seems to take place on our campus during Palestine Awareness Week, when a wall is erected in Bruin Plaza portraying a one-sided view of the conflict. Pro-Israel students, on the other hand, set up their own booth with their own narrative and nothing truly constructive comes out of the debate.
We disagree with the idea that we can only be “pro-Israel” by being “anti-Palestinian,” and vice versa. It is this concern that brought us to join J Street, a national movement that works to ensure Israel’s future by advocating for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Along with hundreds of other students across the country involved in J Street U, the college and university branch of the organization, we merge our commitment to human rights and democracy with the deep care we have for our homeland.
Divestment is coming to campus in the form of “A Resolution to Divest from Companies that Violate Palestinian Human Rights,” which will be brought to the Undergraduate Students Association Council Tuesday.
Although the resolution does not officially endorse the BDS movement, the main group bringing forth this resolution, Students for Justice in Palestine, is an open proponent of the BDS movement, according to its website. It is clear that the passage of this resolution will be a victory for the BDS movement, even without an explicit connection to it.
The BDS movement aims to end the occupation of the Palestinian territories, but fails to recognize Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish and democratic homeland through its repeated condemnation of Zionism, the movement to establish a state for the Jews.
Furthermore, one of the movement’s goals is a complete right of return to Israel for Palestinian refugees, an outcome that would spell the end of a Jewish homeland and is not compatible with a two-state solution. The only way that self-determination for both people can be ensured is through a two-state solution – one binational state will leave the region in a perpetual condition of civil war.
The BDS movement’s reliance on a one-sided narrative isolates and alienates Jewish students on campus and supporters of Israel across the world. Yet open and inclusive dialogue between both sides is the only way significant progress toward solving this conflict can be made.
Secretary of State John Kerry is in the midst of moderating negotiations between both sides, and supporting U.S. leadership in these talks is the most efficient use of our political energy. As Americans, we have an important role to play. Without a constituency for peace, Kerry will not have the political momentum to continue these negotiations.
BDS is not an answer, but rather a misguided attempt to bypass peace talks. Voicing our support for Kerry’s peace initiative is vital. We have a valuable and short time frame in which to achieve peace.
Those of us who truly care about Palestinian human rights and the continuation of a Jewish, democratic state should continue to advocate for the end of the occupation. We cannot do this effectively through BDS.
Our campus should focus its energy on building bridges between our communities, and furthering the prospects of a negotiated, two-state agreement through support of bilateral peace talks.
By ignoring the necessity of a two-state solution to bring real and lasting peace to the region, BDS sets itself up to fail. We urge council members to oppose the upcoming divestment bill. We ask our council members to prove they are committed to peace, not just controversy.
While the ineffective divestment bill is debated on Tuesday, J Street U at UCLA will be working to further dialogue on our campus while effectively supporting negotiations. Our campus chapter joins with 50 others across the nation as we become the fastest growing pro-Israel, pro-Palestinian group in the country. We urge USAC to join with us as we work toward peace.
Dor Carpel is a fourth-year business economics student and co-chair of J Street U at UCLA.Gil Bar-Or is a first-year electrical engineering student and co-chair of J Street U at UCLA.