Letter to the editor:
We were heartened to see the conversation about Israel’s nearly half-a-century long, illegal occupation of Palestine our recent actions have sparked on campus. As an organization committed to working in solidarity with the Palestinian people in their struggle for equality and self-determination, the Campaign for BDS at Ohio State welcomes constructive feedback of its work on campus and in the Columbus community. However, when grossly misleading and inaccurate accusations are levied against our nonviolent, grassroots campaign, we feel compelled to set the record straight.
The Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions movement is a global citizens’ response to the call made in 2005 by Palestinian civil society to pressure Israel into complying with its human rights obligations under international law. The BDS movement supports a targeted campaign of academic and cultural boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel until it ends the occupation and respects Palestinian human rights.
Arguing that BDS is “divisive,” opponents of BDS, such as Mr. Frankel, who wrote a letter to the editor last week, call for the continuation of the so-called “peace process” and point to dialogue as a means to resolve the current Israeli-Palestinian impasse (as though Palestinians and Israelis are equally powerful and equally culpable in the ongoing conflict). However, as the near-collapse of the latest round of peace talks demonstrates, decades of negotiations have failed to achieve a just resolution to the conflict and have only further entrenched the status quo — and Israel’s privileged position within it.
Mr. Frankel’s arguments, though commonly repeated elsewhere, fundamentally mischaracterize the intent of the BDS movement and its campus components. BDS is not about “delegitimizing” Israel, but putting pressure on Israel to recognize and guarantee equal rights under law for all of its residents. Nor does BDS claim to be a panacea to the problems of the Middle East — rather, it aims to pressure academic institutions, governments, and corporations to critically examine and ultimately end their complicity in the repression of Palestinian human rights.
Perhaps the most outrageous argument against BDS, however, is that it should not be attempted because it would be “impractical.” Listing the millions of dollars that OSU has invested in corporations complicit in the Israeli occupation, Frankel says that BDS supporters would have to “delete their personal Facebook pages” in order to adhere to the spirit of BDS. For the record, the BDS campaign has no interest in regulating what companies individual students support, but rather, seeks to end our institutional investments in such companies. However, the ubiquity of such university investments as highlighted by Frankel is perhaps the greatest argument in favor of divestment. Frankel demonstrates well just how complicit OSU’s investments are in the occupation of Palestine.
Moreover, according to the logic of what is and is not “practical,” OSU should not have divested from apartheid South Africa because it would have been too cumbersome. Although it was late to join the bandwagon and divest from South Africa (OSU didn’t divest until 1985), OSU’s eventual decision to divest not only revealed the folly of refusing to adhere to ethical standards of investment, but also the moral power and inevitable success of BDS tactics.
We in the Campaign for BDS at OSU recognize that many students have strong opinions on this issue, and welcome vigorous debate. To continue the discussion, we invite the campus community to join us for a discussion with Ali Abunimah, an internationally-acclaimed author and journalist on Palestinian issues, on April 16 at 6 p.m. in Cartoon Room 2 of the Ohio Union.
Director of Publicity, The Campaign for BDS at Ohio State
Fourth-year in economics