On October 22 2014, the student group Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights (SPHR) tabled a prejudiced motion to boycott, divest, and sanction (BDS) Israel for its alleged occupation and apartheid-like treatment of Palestinians. The motion was defeated indefinitely (so it was thought). A few months later, SPHR tabled a similar motion at the March Student Society of McGill University (SSMU) general assembly, which once again demanded that McGill withdraws its investments from Israeli companies operating in the occupied territories. Once more, it was defeated.
Despite twice failing to achieve its goal of singling out the only liberal democracy in the Middle East, the SSMU will once again vote on a BDS motion, this time brought forward by McGill BDS Action Network on February 22. The group calls for the divestment of companies such as G4S securities, L-3 communications, Mizrahi-Tafahot-Bank, and the RE/MAX real estate group, all of which account for less than 1% of McGill’s total investments.
In addition to protesting the SSMU’s undemocratic system, where a twice-defeated motion can table again, there are a series of critical reasons why every decent student should vote NO.
First and foremost, BDS is purely racist and anti-Semitic. While BDS claims to oppose all human rights violators and occupations, it continues to polarize Israel for its policies, while ignoring every other occupation, such those between Turkey and Cypress, Morocco and Sadr, Russia and Moldova, Armenia and Azerbaijan, Kosovo’s forces and Georgia, Russia and Ukraine, and most notably, China’s occupation over Tibet, which has killed over 1.2 million Tibetans since 1950. If BDS is so dedicated to fighting injustice, where is the condemnation?
Second, it makes no sense. Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian Authority, and the notorious anti-Israeli academic Norman Finkelstein, have stated that divesting from Israeli companies ultimately hurts the Palestinians more than Israel itself. BDS’ goal of boycotting Israeli academic institutions who lead the world in science, technology, math, and economics, while refusing to criticize countries who commit grave human rights abuses, such as Syria where chemical weapons have been used on its citizens, Iran where gays are stoned to death, and Saudi Arabia where women are executed for driving a car, highlights the hidden anti-Semitism and hypocrisy behind BDS.
Third, BDS targets and marginalizes Zionists on campus. BDS does not promote dialogue between Jewish and Palestinian students, but rather attempts to use hurtful tactics, such as hate-ridden posters, propaganda sponsored events, and the notion that Palestinians should be absolved from all wrongdoing. Across the United States, Europe, and Africa, BDS advocacy has ranged from misleading demonstrative protests to full out chants to “kill the Jews” as seen in South Africa last year. Jewish students and supporters of Israel are tired of being divided from their classmates and genuinely concerned for their safety when confronted by aggressive BDS campaigns that only promote a one sided narrative.
If the BDS supporters were truly dedicated to alleviating the occupation, then they should foremost condemn Hamas and their incitement for the recent wave of indiscriminate stabbings on Israeli civilians. Peace is a two-way street and in order for Israel to withdraw from the territories, the Palestinians must prove their seriousness through actions, rather than movements such as BDS. Therefore, I urge all McGill students to combat this blatant, omnipresent, distasteful, and anti-Semitic movement by voting NO on February 22. As Prime Minister Trudeau tweeted last March, “The BDS movement, like Israeli Apartheid Week, has no place on Canadian campuses. As a @McGillalum, I’m disappointed. #EnoughIsEnough.”
Kevin Budning is a student in Conflict Studies and Human Rights at The University of Ottawa