November 19, 2015

GUEST BLOG | Hypocrisy of SJP and BDS

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A couple weeks ago, the Facebook group “Cornell University Confessions” posted a confession that criticized Cornell’s decision to partner with the Technion — Israel Institute of Technology, and called for the divestment from Israel. Upon seeing this, I was disgusted to say the least. I wasn’t angry at the post itself; a lot of people post thoughtless things on the page, and  others are usually quick to put them down. I was appalled by the fact that this “confession” garnered over 40 likes, which is unusually high for the page, and that people defended the post.

On college campuses, Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) is the main organization that promotes boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) initiatives towards Israel. The goals of the movement are, according to the official BDS website, to ensure “Israel meets its obligations under international law by: ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands occupied in June 1967 and dismantling the Wall; recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN Resolution 194.” Their goals include no mentioning of multilateral conflict resolution. Rather, it simply advocates for the unconditional acceptance of the Palestinian’s demands. SJP perpetuates the belief that BDS efforts, as opposed to encouraging peace talks and building mutual trust, are the best ways to improve the situation, and that we should use BDS to force Israel to succumb to the Palestinians. The BDS movement sends a clear message that the path to justice does not involve negotiations, which only fuels the Palestinian’s desire to avoid peace discussions and brutally attack Israeli civilians. If SJP truly desires improved Palestinian welfare, then they should surely abandon BDS and push for diplomacy between Israeli and Palestinian leaders and empower Palestinians to ditch radicalism.

One of the BDS movement’s greatest flaws is that it critically misrepresents Israeli society. According to the official BDS website, supporters should “Boycott target products and companies (Israeli and international) that profit from the violation of Palestinian rights, as well as Israeli sporting, cultural and academic institutions.” They even go as far as to say that “Israeli cultural and academic institutions directly contribute to maintaining, defending or whitewashing the oppression of Palestinians, as Israel deliberately tries to boost its image internationally through academic and cultural collaborations.” Anyone who has been to Israel can attest to the fact that its  cultural, technological and humanitarian contributions are genuine, and that BDS’s claim that Israel’s culture exists solely to improve its international image is false. In fact, many Israeli companies take active strides to employ Palestinians. Take SodaStream, for instance:an Israeli company that used to be the largest private employer of Palestinians in the world. The owner of SodaStream built a factory in the West Bank, hired over 850 Palestinians and Israeli Arabs, paid them four times the West Bank average wage and purchased health care plans for each of them and their families. Ironically, there were calls to boycott this company that were spearheaded by SJP.

SJP at Cornell criticizes Cornell’s partnership with the Technion, writing that the Technion is “an Israeli university that engages in the development of weaponry used in the occupation and subjugation of Palestinians. In partnering with Technion, Cornell has indirectly implicated itself in human rights violations carried out by Israel, such as the indiscriminate killing of civilians in the 2014 Gaza War.” In addition to falsely accusing Israel of war crimes, SJP deceitfully characterizes the Technion as committed to the destruction of the Palestinian people. I can attest firsthand that this is not the case. I and two of my peers at Cornell conducted research at the Technion because we’re genuinely interested in science and engineering, not because we want to kill Arabs. In fact, Arab men and women make up over 20 percent of the student body at the Technion. SJP’s statement also ignores the fact that the Technion sponsored work to invent the USB flash drive, develop PDF compression algorithms, detect cancer, treat Parkinson’s disease, destroy tumors and give mobility to paraplegics. It seems perfectly reasonable that Cornell would team up with a university with such a distinguished history of innovation.

Why does this large organization that purports to support human rights choose to obsess about Israel when far worse human rights situations exist across the world? I don’t see any guerrilla activist organizations that advocate boycotting China, a country that not only suppresses free speech and jails dissenters, but also engages in cyberwarfare with the United States. Additionally, there is not one democracy in the Arab world; the Qataris use slave labor, the Jordanians treat its majority Palestinian population as second class citizens and the Saudis fund Al-Qaeda and deny basic rights to women, yet no one hesitates to trade with these nations. Furthermore, virtually no one’s speaking out against Iran, which jails journalists, holds Americans hostage and vows to destroy Israel and America. In the midst of all of this, Israel — the only democracy in the Middle East — is subjected to exceptional criticism and the Jews are denied the right to self-determination in their ancestral homeland. SJP does nothing to protect the rights of thousands of Palestinians in Jordan and in Arab countries who are severely mistreated by their governments. This student group also turns a blind eye to how both Hamas and the Palestinian Authority crush political dissent, and how Hamas has been known to abduct, torture and murder Palestinians accused of collaborating with Israel. That’s because SJP is not pro-Palestinian, but anti-Israel.

In the past couple of years, we can clearly see SJP’s anti-Israel rhetoric evolve into anti-Semitism. SJP has a notorious record of violence on college campuses and poisoning relationships with Jews. In 2010, UC Berkeley’s president of SJP rammed a pro-Israel activist with a shopping cart. The victim was holding a sign reading “Israel Wants Peace.” Last year at Temple University, a Jewish student was hit in the face by a group of SJP students simply because he was Jewish and he supported the Jewish state. Alarmingly, Cornell SJP members harassed and assaulted a peaceful counter protester and tore up his sign at an anti-Israel rally last year.

By championing BDS, fabricating lies and promoting belligerency towards Jews, SJP has become an anti-peace, anti-human rights and racist organization that is contaminating college campuses. I sincerely hope that Cornell students will come to understand the hypocrisy of this organization and work to advance the goal of peace in the region.