Thursday, May 22, 2014 | return to: views, editorial


BDS tactics devolve into witch hunts

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While the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel has scored some victories on college campuses - U.C. Berkeley's student senate passed a BDS measure last year - for the most part the movement has been a dismal failure.

Just this week, a BDS resolution at the University of Washington lost by a lopsided 59-8 vote, with 11 abstentions. A similar measure narrowly failed at U.C. Davis two weeks ago.

Let's give BDS activists their due. They may be obstinate, fact-challenged bullies, but they have chutzpah. When one tactic fizzles, they cook up another.

At UCLA, Students for Justice in Palestine and allied groups asked candidates for undergraduate student council offices to promise never to take trips to Israel sponsored by AIPAC, the Anti-Defamation League or Hasbara Fellowships, all organizations friendly to Israel. Reportedly, 18 of the 30 candidates signed the pledge before the recent elections.

These same SJP activists filed a complaint last month, asking UCLA's undergraduate judicial board to investigate two student government leaders who had gone on such sponsored trips. They contended that the students had been sweet-talked by the Zionist entity and their judgment had become tainted, especially on BDS issues.

A UCLA divestment resolution in February failed 7-5. The SJP demanded that the two students' "no" votes be nullified based on "conflict of interest." Luckily, saner heads prevailed, and this week the judicial board unanimously rejected SJP's complaint.

The two students, neither of whom are Jewish, had to sit through 4½ hours of questioning and testimony to ascertain whether they were guilty. Guilty of visiting Israel.

Welcome to McCarthyism, Bruins-style.

The fact that student governments across the country have become obsessed with this geopolitical issue is itself a bad joke. Where's the balance? Why have we heard nothing about any student resolutions against Nigeria's murderous jihadist gang Boko Haram?

But beyond that, the idea that SJP or any group can dictate to college students which countries they may visit, or which opinions they may consider, flies in the face of everything academia represents.

Although high-level U.C. officials did not intervene, some spoke out against SJP's heavy-handed tactics. Free-speech rights prevented them from taking more direct action.

We are pleased that UCLA's judicial board dismissed the baseless claims of the BDS activists against the two student officers. No fair observer can fail to see these tactics for what they are: anti-Israel, anti-Jewish and anti-intellectual. All right-thinking people must protest these modern-day witch hunts.


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