SPHR’s BDS campaign against the state of Israel is in full swing. The reaction to that has been strong, which is expected at a university that has students from across the globe.
While there have been calls to not allow this referendum to pass, the arguments used to defend that line of action have been weak on multiple levels.
Getting into the historical question of Israel-Palestine is a long debate and one which cannot be covered in the given space. But while the complication of the issue is acknowledged, what also needs to be accepted is that Palestine’s position on the negotiation table is ridiculously weak. What also needs to be accepted is that the sheer magnitude of human loss suffered by Palestinians over the course of this conflict is significantly higher compared to what has been suffered by Israel.
This does not imply, under any circumstances, that violence by Hamas or other outfits is acceptable. But while Israel, one of the strongest military forces in the world, is able to burn Palestinian homes down to rubble and splatter streets with blood, action needs to be taken. This is precisely why a campaign that promotes to respond via economic measures makes a lot of sense.
It would be naïve to believe that the BDS campaign, if successful, will significantly harm Israel’s economy. But it will make a statement, which is what all of this is about. Concerns from Jewish and Israeli students on campus are valid, but we need to accept the fact that every time Israel’s brutal foreign policy is criticized, it is not a sign of anti-Semitism. Every time Israel’s brutal campaign in Gaza is criticized, it is not a campaign against the global Jewish population. Similarly, a campaign on campus that aims to speak out against Israel’s foreign policy and makes an attempt towards pushing for economic harm is not a campaign against the Jewish and Israeli students. Israel’s foreign policy is separate from the people who reside in that country. That needs to be understood. It is common knowledge that there are sections within Israel that are against the country’s brutal campaign in Gaza.
All this is easier said than done, of course. The world, unfortunately, has a dark history and the fears of students on campus are perhaps justified when one looks at it from a historical perspective. But those fears need to be addressed, without comprising on the principled stance of supporting the BDS.
Violence is not an answer to anything. Neither from Israel, nor from Palestine. But if economic harm makes a statement in the face of a brutal foreign policy, no matter how small, then it must be supported. It is our duty, not just as people who are affiliated to UBC in some capacity, but as humans, to take a stand and speak out for Palestinian voices. As Dante said, “The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis.” Let us not be those people.
This post originally appeared on The Ubyssey on 12 March, 2015.