Divestment at UCSD – A Poor Choice

by John Ayers-Mann

The Boycott Divest Sanction movement has returned to our campus again for another year as Students for Justice in Palestine continue to propagate the ill-conceived legislation known as divestment. The bill promises to promote peace by having ASUCSD urge the UC system to disinvest from companies that contribute to the violation of human rights of Palestinians. Surely a resolution that promotes human rights and tries to reduce the UC system’s influence in human rights violations is worthy of passing with immense support. 

So why is it that SJP has been unable to pass divestment ever before? Unfortunately for SJP, these conclusions are founded on completely false premises that fail to reflect the reality of what is happening in Israel. By looking over the language of the proposal one can see an obvious misrepresentation of the situation with Gaza and extreme comparisons of the state of Israel to the regimes of South Africa. They would have one believe that Israel is a tyrant regime that suppresses its Arab citizens and does not allocate them the same rights as the rest of its primarily Jewish population – but these assertions are greatly devoid of fact.

To understand just how much these assertions fail to describe reality one must understand exactly what the point of view of SJP and their movement is. The Boycott Divest Sanction movement is a campaign to put pressure on Israel to achieve goals of having its Arab citizens attain the same rights as the rest of the Israeli population, dismantle the security barrier between Israel and the West Bank and promote the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes. They aim to achieve these ends by having corporations involved in the conflict divest from Israel by having their investors exert pressure upon them through their divestments. The movement also encourages international sanctions against the Israeli government for their actions regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The issue with the point of view that SJP endorses is that it does not see the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians as a conflict, but instead as a unilateral act of aggression; Israelis are the aggressors and Palestinians are the victims and thus the security barrier is an unnecessary suppression of Palestinians. But history seems to tell a different story as one can see that a series of 135 suicide attacks between 2000 and 2005 resulted in over 700 injuries and hundreds of deaths which necessarily resulted in the need for a security barrier to stem the tide of suicide attacks. Not only is the security barrier a logical step in the defense of Israel and the protection of citizens from Palestinian attacks, but it is also effective since the amount of suicide attacks after the construction dropped dramatically. Another facet of the BDS movement has been the condemnation of the restriction of rights on Arab citizens. This issue can be explicitly addressed by examining the Israeli Declaration of Independence which itself guarantees the equality of rights for all citizens “irrespective of race or religion.” Actually, Arabs living in Israel are given the same rights before the law as any other citizen of the state. For all the alleged restrictions that Israel places upon Arab citizens, there are successful Arab citizens in virtually every walk of life in Israel.

The divestment bill at UCSD is a resolution by ASUCSD that would urge the UC system to disinvest from various companies that the resolution alleges “contribute” to the persecution of Palestinians. But SJP’s own tactics continue to persecute the Palestinian citizens by refusing to engage in a constructive dialogue with pro-Israel advocates such as Tritons for Israel. Indeed, the officers of SJP highlight their unwillingness to recognize Israel as a legitimate actor by stating in their correspondence to AS that they should, “not insult [their] organization and [their] resolution by insinuating that [their] resolution supporting Palestinian human rights is a matter that must be juxtaposed with whatever it is that TFI does.” This sort of non-engagement on the issue does not support peace and does not support a two state solution and rather strains the potential for any middle ground to be reached. Although they may believe that their cause is strengthened by their principle of ignoring the opposing views, by doing so they are actually closing down channels of communication that could lead to progress instead of creating the opportunity for anything to change.

Finally, the community at UCSD must also consider the impact of what this resolution means to the Jewish community at UCSD and the business community that it directly effects outside of UCSD. To adopt this resolution would be to single out a certain subset of students at the school and condemn their views in support of a group that itself refuses to recognize them. This sort of proposal reels against the Principles of Community which seek to “foster understanding and tolerance among individuals and groups.” The resolution unfairly blames Israel for its actions taken in response to threats to its own security and creates an atmosphere that, if adopted, would create an inhospitable environment towards Jewish students at UCSD. Furthermore, the resolution urging disinvestment would adversely effect internship opportunities, school funding and employment opportunities for students after they graduate if the school is to become identified with a patently anti-Jewish identity. The adoption of the resolution should not only be rejected because it is unsound in its own logic, but also because it would be a disservice to the very students ASUCSD is committed to representing.

The failure of SJP to establish the premises of their arguments in reality debases the validity of the divestment resolution by calling for tactics aimed at creating peace while they themselves refuse to engage with others to help bring about this peace. If Students for Justice in Palestine want peace to come to the Middle East then they will need to put aside their pride and refusal to recognize the other side of the discussion and come to terms with an opinion that differs from their own. Though neither side on the issue has a monopoly on the truth, nothing can be attained through refusing to recognize and engage with the differences of interpretation that exist.

UCSD students can vote in the official AS poll here. Voting closes after February 27th. 

5 comments

  1. As an older re-entry student, I have consistently been impressed with the maturity and brilliance of the young people I have encountered during my time at UCSD. However, this resolution by the AS makes it glaringly evident that there are some who lag way behind their peers in frontal lobe development. The hubris in their assumption that they should know better than both major political parties, the Congress, the POTUS, the State Department etc…about Israel is a testament to their inability to adequately assess the consequences of their actions, which in this case will be, no doubt, further division within the student body. It is a direct affront to the commitment to diversity outlined in UCSD’s principles of community and will do no more than alienate the Jewish students. Shame on these children, shame on them for purporting to be my representative…but then again, as Oscar Wilde put it “I am not young enough to know everything”.

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