BY AVINOAM BARAL, TAMMY RUBIN AND MIRIAM ESHAGHIAN
At 7 p.m. Tuesday, the Undergraduate Students Association Council will be debating a resolution calling for divestment from five companies that have contracts with the Israeli government. We find this resolution misleading and offensive, and urge all of our fellow students to join us in opposition to it.
Passing this resolution would make UCLA students complicit in a bigoted propaganda campaign against the world’s only Jewish state. Divestment is part of the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, which demands the elimination of Israel and the violation of Jewish rights to self-determination. Leading BDS activists have made this abundantly clear in their public statements:
Omar Barghouti, founder of the BDS movement: “We oppose a Jewish state in any part of Palestine.”
As’ad Abukhalil, a leading BDS activist: “The real aim of BDS is to bring down the state of Israel.”
The official BDS platform demands a “right of return” to Israel for all descendants of Palestinian refugees, which, in the words of President Barack Obama, “would extinguish Israel as a Jewish state.”
As Jews, we see Israel as our home, a major part of our identity and a symbol of our liberation as a people. In returning to our ancestral lands, reestablishing Jewish independence and building a thriving democracy, our people overcame nearly two millennia of dispossession and oppression across Europe and the Middle East. Thus, our self-determination is not only a right enshrined in United Nations international law, but also a guarantee that grave historical injustices will not be repeated. And yet, under the guise of justice and human rights, BDS effectively seeks to violate our collective rights and negate our existence.
By voting yes on divestment, USAC would institutionalize this bigoted movement and help it go mainstream. We believe that all students of conscience at UCLA have a moral responsibility to stand up and say “not in our name!” BDS deserves our condemnation, not our complicity.
We acknowledge Palestinian suffering and the hardships created by Israeli policies in the West Bank, and support constructive criticism. However, we refuse to accept the slanderous and misleading accusations promoted by the language of this divestment resolution.
For example, it suggests that Israeli safety measures like checkpoints and the security barrier are arbitrary, and exist to discriminate against and violate Palestinian rights. Since 1967, Palestinians and Israelis traveled around freely, with no restrictions. However, in 2000, Palestinian terrorists launched a brutal campaign of weekly suicide bombings and other terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians. Israel was left with no choice but to put up checkpoints and the barrier to prevent further atrocities.
Terrorism has taken a massive toll on Israeli society, including the families of UCLA’s Israeli students. To this day, some of our family friends refuse to enter restaurants because a close friend was murdered in a suicide bombing in the Sbarro pizzeria in the center of Jerusalem.
Israeli security measures do create difficulties for Palestinians. However, they are essential because they separate terrorists who take refuge in the West Bank and Gaza from their intended victims – Israelis of all colors, ages and religious identities. These measures have also worked – Israeli casualties decreased by over 90 percent after they were put in place, according to the Israeli Defense Force. In 2013 alone, there were nearly 1,400 attempted terrorist attacks, and in 2012 there were almost 500 recorded attempts to smuggle weapons through checkpoints.
So while we want to ease restrictions on Palestinian life, we recognize what the divestment resolution does not: this will never happen without a diplomatically negotiated peace between Israelis and Palestinians. Divesting from security measures that keep Israeli civilians including our friends and families safe every day will not bring the sides any closer to peace, and will not bring us any closer to justice.
To be clear, we do not believe that students who support divestment are acting out of malice. We too share a deep connection to the complex Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which is why we hope and pray that the current peace negotiations led by Secretary of State John Kerry will end in a peace agreement. We also recognize the rights of both people to live in their homelands.
But we ask you to see through the larger BDS campaign’s rhetoric, which hides behind justice and progressive values as it seeks to destroy Israel as a Jewish state. Endorsing misleading accusations and promoting an anti-Israel movement fails to advance the cause of peace while dividing our campus.
We join the recognized leadership of the Palestinian people, the Palestinian Authority, in denouncing the BDS movement, and simply ask our student government to do the same. We hope you will join us in urging USAC to vote no on divestment, and help us forge a truly progressive way forward for our campus.
Baral is a third-year human biology and society student and the vice president of the Jewish Student Union. Rubin is a third-year human biology and society student and the president of Hillel at UCLA. Miriam Eshaghian is a fourth-year psychobiology student and the president of Bruins for Israel.