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Thursday, March 7, 2013 | return to: views, editorial


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Divestment bill shot down at Stanford in a win for rational argument

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There is much to cheer — and a bit to fear — in the defeat this week of an Israel divestment bill in the Stanford University student senate. Thanks to a yeoman effort on the part of the campus Jewish community and others, BDS has been squelched at Stanford, at least for now.

Unlike the divestment measure approved March 6 at U.C. Riverside, and one under consideration at U.C. San Diego, the Stanford bill appeared to have more modest goals. Intended to urge the university to divest from two companies accused of profiting from Israel’s policies in the West Bank, the bill met with substantial pushback from pro-Israel forces and ultimately failed in a March 5 vote of the senate.

Intended to urge the university to divest from two companies accused of profiting from Israel’s policies in the West Bank, the bill met with substantial pushback from pro-Israel forces and ultimately failed in a March 5 vote of the senate.

As our story on page 12 explains, Hillel, the Stanford Israel Alliance and J Street U — an organization often critical of Israeli policies — joined others to oppose the bill.

Jewish students, with help from local Jewish organizations, spoke out at student senate meetings, sent letters and personally lobbied senators. They explained, quite rightly, that such a divestment effort is inappropriate for a student senate, and criminally misguided in its focus on Israeli wrongdoings to the exclusion of those perpetrated by other nations.

For all the headlines it draws, the anti-Israel boycott, divestment and sanctions movement has so far been a spectacular failure across the country. The blatant bias, one-sidedness and sheer ignorance of history the movement embodies short-circuit any real success.

That’s not for lack of trying. BDS activists are tireless in their efforts to pass anti-Israel resolutions at universities and within Christian denominations, such as the Presbyterian and Methodist churches. At times, they’ve come unnervingly close.

It is only thanks to determined resistance from the Jewish community and its allies that we have prevented a tidal wave of odious anti-Israel BDS resolutions. Though largely symbolic in nature, these measures represent deep hostility to Israel — not just to the particular policies of this or that Israeli government, which are of course open to debate and criticism, but to the very notion of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.

That is something that cannot be allowed to happen.

The Stanford victory is sweet, but it won’t last. BDS resolutions will pop up on other campuses, if not this month, then soon.

Congratulations to all those who fought the good fight at Stanford. Now let us brace for the next one, wherever it may appear.


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