The lecture hall had filled quickly. Several students wore keffiyehs, the traditional Palestinian headscarves, while another sat draped in the Israeli flag.
It was time for a ritual that has become increasingly commonplace on many American college campuses: A student government body, in this case at the University of California, Davis, would take up Israeli policy toward the Palestinians, and decide whether to demand their school divest from companies that work with the Jewish state.
In the United States, Israel’s closest ally, the decade-old boycott-divestment-sanctions movement, or BDS, is making its strongest inroads by far on college campuses. No U.S. school has sold off stock and none is expected to do so anytime soon. Still, the current academic year is seeing an increasing number of divestment drives on campus. Since January alone, student governments at four universities have taken divestment votes…
The boycott-divestment-sanctions movement grew from a 2005 international call from Palestinian groups as an alternative to armed struggle over control of the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem, which Israel captured in 1967 and Palestinians seek for an independent state.
BDS advocates say the movement, based on the campaign against South African apartheid decades ago, is aimed at Israeli policy, not Jews, in response to two decades of failed peace talks and expanded Israeli settlement of the West Bank and east Jerusalem.
But supporters of Israel say that boycotting the country is no way to make peace, especially since many BDS supporters do not differentiate between protesting Jewish settlements on occupied lands or Israel as a whole.
The Jewish settlements are only part of the apartheid practices of Israel and I’m not quite certain why the AP rolls this out as a straw man. Apartheid is codified bigotry allowing only second-class citizenship to Palestinians – strictly enforced throughout every part of political life in Israel and the land that nation invaded and controls by force of arms.
In the U.S., activists have pressed for boycotts of Israeli products and cultural events, and divestment by churches and others. None of these efforts has gained as much momentum as the campus divestment movement.
Pension funds in the United States, like CALPERS, representing thousands of employees in California, ranging from teachers to police, is considering divesting all Israel-based investments. They are not alone.
The campaign will continue. In the American Jewish community, the percentage of young people who believe identity with and unconditional support for Israel is necessary – is a minority. Nor will they adopt the specious argument that opposition to Israel’s policies is somehow anti-Semitic. That canard is dead and gone except among reactionary True Believers.
Just as the campaign against apartheid in South Africa was long and difficult – this, too, shall succeed.