As 527 attendees at this year’s Men’s Event can attest, I possess a certain animus towards Ohio State University. As a life-long Michigan fan, this hostility is a cultural mandate and exacerbated by recent years of complete football futility against the college from the south. As such, I share this column fully acknowledging the risk of being labeled a heretic.
One of my proudest moments as a father was when my son Brad, then a student at the University of Michigan, protested at the student government meeting where they were voting on a BDS resolution against Israel. Fortunately, the resolution failed. But in November of 2017, in a secret ballot of the student representatives, a resolution calling on the school to investigate divesting from companies doing business in Israel passed 23-17, with 5 abstentions. The Regents rejected the student government’s request. Yet, early this year, Michigan found itself in the vortex of another storm due to a professor refusing to write a letter of recommendation for student seeking to study abroad in Israel. While these acts of a few do not represent the University’s predominant perspective on Israel, it does represent an endemic anti-Semitic culture on college campuses that subjects Jewish students to an alarming growth of anti-Semitic acts, regardless of their views on Israel.
I do not and would not attack any person’s right to criticize, even Israel. Several issues associated with the BDS movement reveal that those who advocate for the boycott, divestment, and sanctions against Israel are not motivated by a justified grievance against her policies, but reject her very existence. How else can one explain the fact that numerous countries occupy, in a legal sense (Israel is not an occupying power according to international definitions) populations not their own, but are spared any protest whatsoever? How can Israel’s behavior merit such belligerent condemnation when atrocities against women, minorities, religions, and the LGBTQ community are standard fare in other countries, including those abutting Israel. Singling out Israel on campuses to the complete exclusion of any other country is nonsensical if one wants to argue that these advocates are truly concerned about the plight of human suffering throughout the world.
Personally, I find the current situation vis-à-vis the Palestinians untenable and pray for a resolution that results in peace and prosperity for all. I really do. I have my perspective on the share of responsibility to bring this ideal to reality, and Israel is certainly a part of that equation. Yet, when it comes to BDS and the verifiable lies expounded by its advocates, I can only conclude that supporters are either complete rejectionists of Israel, today’s most dangerous expression of anti-Semitism, or are simply ignorant of the true facts regarding this complex relationship. Either way, anti-Semitic acts are rising at an alarming rate around the world, in the U.S. and on college campuses, growing more and more violent. Polls and statistics abound. One cannot realistically dismiss BDS as a factor on college campuses in this growing trend.
The Ohio State University. The name triggers a rise in blood pressure. My heart rate increases and my palms sweat. On December 3, 2018, the student government rejected, by a vote of 33-7 a motion to “divest from and boycott G4S, Caterpillar Inc.., Sabra Dipping Company, and Hewlett-Packard – all of which benefit from the Israeli occupation of Palestine.” With the entirety of my heart and soul, I smiled when I read this story. I commend the bravery of those 33 students who, under significant pressure, I am sure, stood strong in the face of bigotry. I appreciate their stand and…gulp…am proud of the Ohio State University.
At Federation, we care deeply about the future of the Jewish people and the challenges we face in San Diego and around the world just for being Jewish. Some are disappointed that we are not more active in fighting BDS. It is not due to a lack of attributing importance to anti-Semitism on campuses. Truth is, we cannot do it all with impact. We are comforted in the fact that other organizations are combatting BDS on a daily basis, namely Hillel, ADL, and AIPAC. I support those efforts wholeheartedly. I am also comforted by Federation’s commitment to investing in our next generation through a multitude of programs aimed at ingraining a sense of Jewish community to ensure our collective future as a people. These fights will not end. Our strength and unity will continue to be a focus as the entire organized community collaborates for our Jewish tomorrow.
Go Blue…and O-H…