Another BDS fail as divestment resolution tanks at University of Washington
Paccar 192 at the University of Washington was, well, packed tonight as a a BDS fueled divestment resolution was brought before the UW student senate (ASUW). What many considered a maneuver to limit the Jewish response, the anti-Israel resolution was delivered to the senate on the eve of Passover and was presented for first reading on Israel Independence day. Nearly a month after R-20-39 was submitted, it was finally debated on before the UW senate this evening.
Aside from the student senators, the vast majority of those in attendance were there to support or oppose the resolution. Some BDS supporters donned kaffiyehs or wore green divest T-shirts.
As the Senate plodded through new business, the tension in the room was palpable. By 7:00 pm the AAA committee met in the foyer to hear final arguments and questions. After a brief pro/con and questions session, the committee voted to deliver the resolution to the senate “unfavorably”. This means that the AAA committee frowned upon the legislation but nevertheless was presenting it to the full senate.
At around 7:20 pm the senate reconvened. Those who wished to advocate for the resolution were told to gather in the right aisle, those in opposition to the left. For the next hour and a half the room was subject to a whiplash of perspectives as the senate alternated speakers from each side.
The pro students offered the usual BDS arguments mired in tendentious stories of personal anguish “my grandfather can’t get his transfusions because of the wall”, Matrix like imagery “Arabs and Jews are assigned different bio-metric cards courtesy of HP and Motorola”, and outright lies “a very trusted resource, Mondoweiss reported today that the Israelis ripped out 15,000 apple and pear trees with caterpillar tractors to make room for settlements”. One of the most far-fetched assertions of many was the description of huge Caterpillar tractor war machines (“15 times bigger than a regular tractor”) armed with offensive missile batteries.
There were at least as many students representing the pro-Israel side as there were BDS supporters. The pro-Israel students prepared well and their arguments seem to have resonated with the senators. One student expressed frustration at the unwillingness of the BDS side to enter into dialogue.
“We all support human rights, justice, and fair treatment for all people. I support fair treatment of Palestinians. But this resolution is one-sided, it does nothing to bring the parties together for dialogue. It actually opposes dialogue. And though we’ve tried to talk to the other side, the other side has refused to talk with us.”
One of the highlights of the evening was an articulate statement against the resolution made by UW Sociology professor, Paul Burstein. The professor was the only pro-Israel speaker who called out the BDS resolution as anti-Semitic. He suggested the resolution framers were less than honest as to their goals, and that their true intention was the end of Israel as a Jewish majority state. Pointing out that the resolution demanded nothing tangible of the students or the university, he described it as just an easy way to manipulate the students to appear to support the sponsor’s twisted agenda.
The professor was challenged by one of the BDS supporters after he referenced hate filled anti-Israel posters he had seen on campus. The student asked Burstein to identify which posters he found troubling. Burstein calmly responded that the posters for an Ali Abunimah speaking event promoted a man who openly advocates for BDS and the elimination of Israel as a Jewish state. He added that while the sponsors of the anti-Israel resolution claimed no association with BDS, they were the ones who introduce Abunimah at his speaking engagement at the UW last week.
The debate wound to a close around 9:30pm as the President of the senate suggested that the maintenance staff would soon need to service the auditorium. Final tally 59 against, 8 in favor and 11 abstentions.
There was some scattered applause as the final tally was counted, but no gloating from the pro-Israel side. Most merely heaved a sigh of relief that the battle for now, was won.
“BDS was handed one of its worst defeats on any campus last night” said Rob Jacobs, Northwest Coordinator for StandWithus. “We are so proud of the UW pro-Israel students who did an amazing job and who inspired us with their commitment and passion. Exposing the BDS’ goal of eliminating Israel and violating Jewish rights to self-determination was the key focus of the night, and it was clear that this message got through to many senators”.
Hillel President Eric Fingerhut echoed those sentiments. “So proud of our students at Hillel at University of Washington for leading the charge to defeat the anti-Israel divestment bill brought to a vote on their campus last night! They worked tirelessly around the clock in the months, days and hours leading up to this decision”.
The Jewish community of Seattle owes the pro-Israel students and their advisers at StandWithUs and UW Hillel much gratitude. This was a fight that these students did not ask for, but they stepped up to defend the Jewish state, they (and we) should be very proud.
That having been said, there is work to be done, as it seems few if any of the pro-Israel students were aware of the strong, legal, moral and historic claim the Jewish people have to Judea and Samaria.
As students exited the auditorium, 27 BDS supporters, signs in hand stood outside the auditorium exit in a sanctimonious semi-circle, forcing attendees to walk through their gauntlet as they stood in silent, mournful disapproval. On another high note, one of the BDS’ers chided me for running a “website full of malice and lies!”. I couldn’t help but think to myself… I’m famous!
Most of the divestment debate may be viewed here, courtesy of SUPER-UW.