BDS Campaign Sweeps UC Campuses

Kurwa, Rahim

Publisher:  Against the Current
Date Written:  01/07/2013
Year Published:  2013  
Resource Type:  Article
Cx Number:  CX19872

The 2012-2013 academic year has seen seven University of California campuses launch campaigns to divest university funds from corporations enabling oppression of Palestinians. The article outlines the roots of the campaign, its progress, and the pressures facing activists working to support Palestinian rights.



What is most interesting when looking at these campaigns is the fact that the anti-divestment crowd’s talking points offered no challenge to the facts provided by Students for Justice in Palestine. That the anti-divestment argument now centers on how divestment will make some students feel indicates that the opposition cannot dispute the claim that Israel is engaged in widespread and systematic human rights abuses in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The question is no longer whether Israel violates Palestinian rights, but what to do about those violations — a striking indication of just how far public opinion has shifted over the past several years.

Still, the anti-divestment parties on campuses are fighting on two fronts. Some, like the AMCHA Initiative, are trying to shut down debate. On the other hand, many anti-divestment students are employing a discourse of marginalization to re-route debate from issues to emotions. In several cases, it appears that student senates have rejected divestment not on its merits, but in order to avoid being seen as hostile to pro-Israel students.

Anti-divestment students have threatened to drop out of the university should divestment pass, and outside organizations have threatened to tell families not to send students to the university or to send their charitable contributions elsewhere.

But this rhetoric only works as long as “pro-Israel” parties can successfully portray the Jewish community as homogenously supportive of Israeli policies and opposed to divestment. That strategy has recently failed in Britain, where Academic Friends of Israel director Ronnie Fraser failed to win a lawsuit against the University College Union arguing that boycott advocacy was a form of institutional anti-Semitism.
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