What are we being asked to boycott?
This is one of the biggest issues with the TSSU BDS question – it doesn’t actually say what will be boycotted. It asks for a “blank cheque” to boycott whatever products, companies, academics and academic institutions “support occupation”. This is both ambiguous and misleading and gives the TSSU immense power to boycott nearly anything.
Does the BDS movement seek to destroy Israel?
While individual supporters may have different stances, the BDS movement as a whole calls for destruction of Israel in its entirety. Here is what some of the key leaders of the BDS movement have to say about the issue:
“BDS is not another step on the way to the final showdown; BDS is The Final Showdown. This belief grows directly from the conviction that nothing resembling the “two-state solution” will ever come into being. Ending the occupation doesn’t mean anything if it doesn’t mean upending the Jewish state itself.”
– Ahmed Moor, leading BDS activist
“The real aim of BDS is to bring down the state of Israel….That should be stated as an unambiguous goal. There should not be any equivocation on the subject. Justice and freedom for the Palestinians are incompatible with the existence of the state of Israel.”
– As’ad AbuKhalil, leading BDS activist
Supporting the BDS movement means supporting the destruction of the democratic state of Israel.
But wouldn’t passing this be a step towards justice for Palestinians?
Unfortunately, this would be a step in the very opposite direction. BDS fuels conflict and division between Israelis and Palestinians, not justice and peace. BDS opposes any cooperation, coexistence, or dialogue unless the Israeli side agrees to their political demands in advance. Moreover, BDS leaders have clearly stated that the goal of their movement is to eliminate Israel. Voting no doesn’t mean you oppose Palestinian human rights, it simply means you believe in supporting Palestinians without tearing down Israelis.
What about the Security Barrier with the West Bank. Isn’t the motion addressing the “Wall”?
The security barrier acts like any barrier between countries – it helps keep people safe. By making entry into Israel difficult, the fence has played a central role in the decline of terrorism.
In 2005, 45 Israelis were killed by Palestinian terrorism, compared to 451 killed in 2002 – a 90% decline.
The decline in lethal terrorist attacks against Israelis has also meant fewer Israeli military incursions into Palestinian areas. As a result, Palestinian deaths declined by 75% from 2004 to 2005.
Some opponents of the fence say that the fence won’t solve the conflict. It was never meant too. It does what it was built to do: reduce terrorism – a good thing for Israelis and Palestinians.
Isn’t Israel an Apartheid State?
The comparison between apartheid in South Africa and the current conflict between Israel and the Palestinians is completely false. Here is a member of the South African parliament explaining why:
Are you saying all BDS supporters are anti-Semitic?
No, there are definitely well-meaning people who support the actions like this referendum because they are misguided. That said, there is no question that the goal of the global BDS movement is to eliminate Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, and that BDS activism descends into anti-Semitism far too frequently. Those who believe in justice and human rights should oppose BDS and acknowledge that the Jewish people, like all other peoples, have a right to self-determination in their homeland.
Ok so if not BDS, then what?
Firstly, if you see a fight happening and you have just two choices – get involved and make it even worse or stay out of it, the right thing to do is to stay out of it. Luckily, those are not the only options we have in this case. The TSSU and SFU in general can support peace and justice by helping the many organizations and projects that seek to foster cooperation, mutual respect, and peace on the ground. For example, this could involve creating an academic partnership with the Arava Institute – a place where Israelis and Palestinians study and work together on environmental sustainability projects for their communities. In a broader sense, we should be looking for ways to promote negotiations based on the principle of self-determination for both peoples, rather than tearing down one side in a misguided attempt to help the other.