The Other Side Of BDS; A Letter To MSA

Noah Farber is a freshman and a Minnesota Student Association representative for Students Supporting Israel.


Ask two Jews about something and you will get three different opinions. However, when it comes to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanction (BDS) resolution being considered by the Minnesota Student Association on Tuesday, the organized Jewish community is speaking with one unified voice. We believe the BDS movement is inherently anti-Semitic and constitutes a personal attack on our community. The BDS resolution is opposed by all major Jewish organizations on campus, including Hillel and Chabad, as well as the Sigma Alpha Mu and Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternities.

The organizers of BDS do not support a two-state solution, the only feasible way to end this tragic conflict in a peaceful and humane manner. As BDS co-founder Omar Barghouti said, “I do not buy into the two state solution. It is […] pragmatically impossible.” The BDS movement is solely focused on Israel and fails to recognize the role of corrupt governments in the West Bank and Gaza Strip as factors in the appalling state of the Palestinian people.

It is essential for the MSA to reject this attack on Israel, cloaked in a resolution about principled investment.

Closer to home, the leaders of UMN Divest say on their FAQ page that they support changing Israel from a Jewish state to a secular democracy. To be clear, removing Israel’s Jewish character delegitimizes its right to exist as any other nation. This unwavering opposition of two states for two peoples is deeply troubling to us. It is not only a denial of our right as Jewish people to self determination, but a continuation of Palestinian policies that have failed to capitalize on Israeli peace offers on six separate occasions.

UMN Divest’s aim is to pressure Israeli leadership to ‘come to the table’ and engage in discussion. Yet time and time again, history has shown that Israel has been willing to exchange land for peace while the Palestinians have either rejected peace offers or violated the terms of the agreement.

We have seen throughout the country that BDS campaigns on college campuses are often followed by anti-Semitic incidents. Soon after UC Davis passed a BDS amendment, five separate incidents of anti-Semitism occurred on campus. At UC Berkeley, graffiti read, “Zionists should be sent to the gas chamber,” and swastikas are now a common occurrence. One student reported, “We still find anti-Semitic slogans written on bathrooms. We see swastikas on doors still, but they’re kind of dismissed. […] [They see it] on dorms, on bathroom stalls, just random places on campus.”

BDS is also opposed by a variety of countries and important figures, including President Obama, who directed his administration, “to strongly oppose boycotts, divestment campaigns and sanctions targeting the state of Israel.” The Canadian parliament recently passed a motion to condemn the movement. Even Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is quoted saying, “No, we do not support the boycott of Israel.”

Students for Justice in Palestine deserves a lot of credit for fighting for admirable causes, including the transparency of our school’s financial investments and holding the U to a high standard of social responsibility for those investments. As we say in Hebrew, this deserves Kol HaKavod, or the utmost respect. However, we cannot support a resolution with ties to a movement that is blatantly anti-Semitic and runs counter to our idea of a peaceful solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Transparency and social responsibility in our University’s investments is a noble goal. However, we cannot reach it through singling out just one country and only blaming one side for a complex political situation. It is essential for the MSA to reject this attack on Israel, cloaked in a resolution about principled investment. That is the only way we can ensure our campus is a safe space for all students and come together to promote the fair treatment of all citizens.