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.
R-20-39 was not the only item on the senate agenda, the first hour being taken up by discussion on a resolution to support more gender neutral bathrooms at the UW. It was overwhelmingly approved.
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.
Interesting writeup. If you were there, I was the student who stood at the podium. I believe I spoke once or twice, and co-sponsored the gender neutral bathroom bill. I don’t know if the general stance of the ASUW is pro-israel, I think you have to drill down that question a little to get a meaningful answer. My interpretation of the vote was that we had given pro-BDS groups a great deal of time to make their case, but they kept coming in with the weakest of sauce. ASUW is lucky to be pretty dang respected when it comes to student governments, and part of that is because we only make decisions about things we have a right to, not just toss out stances willy-nilly. BDS said that us writing the resolution represented a “symbolic” action, and I think that’s when most of us were certain- ASUW Senate doesn’t really do symbolic actions about hugely complicated issues overseas. Our symbolic actions are thanking professors or congratulating sports teams. That and the frankly ludicrous claims about giant-sized tractors or bulldozers or whatever it was.
Honestly the whole affair was frankly embarassing. We could have done it all in a third of the time, just we were so concerned about censoring freedom of speech or whatever.
I was indeed there. I am impressed by the thoughtful approach you and your colleagues brought to a volatile, politicized issue. Well done.
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Your suggestion Palestinian refugees settle in “vast Arab lands” in other nations has problems which explains why they’re not welcome elsewhere – like lack of available water, little arable land, inadequate infrastructure, no money, and significant tribal, cultural, religious, political and ethnic differences among Arabs. Seems to me its Israel’s responsibility to do right by these people because their roots are in Israel – not in some other Arab country.
Its hard to understand why Gazans and Palestinian native to Israel should not have every bit as much a “right of return” as any Jew, especially Jews with roots elsewhere.
I find it bizarre how American Jews can hold dual citizenship, vote in this country, and be afforded more rights by Israel to the homelands of the indigenous refugees than those disenfranchised refugees themselves. Where’s the equity in that?
Discrimination based on race and religion are not American values, and they shouldn’t be Israeli values.
End the occupation, recognize Gazans/Palestinians as equals in all things. Reparations for stolen land. Then no need for BDS, and peace.
E Brighton: What you have not been told is that the Jewish people have never given up by treaty or surrendered the indigenous rights to their homeland. The Arab descendents of the 7th Century Islamic conquest of the Region have secured 22 countries with a population of over 150 million. The six million or so Jews of Israel demand only their rightful homeland, nothing more. This is a miniscule fraction of the vast Arab lands.
As it relates to reparations, please be aware that 500,000 Jews were driven from all of the Arab lands of the Middle East with virtually all of their property confiscated without reparation. The vast majority of Arabs who fled the restored state of Israel did so at the command of their leaders, it is their own Arab tormentors who have denied them a place to settle in their vast lands.
Arabs in Israel have full voting and civil rights, Arabs serve in the Parliament, in all facets of communal life and even on the Supreme court. This in contrast to the non existent rights of the small handful of Jews who remain in Arab lands. Most Arab countries have been ethnically cleansed of their ancient Jewish populations.
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Nice work. I remember when colleges were a place to think and debate issues.
Great work. Too bad Hillel down here in Orange County california isn’t so involved.
Exactly! Well said Shimona/
Maybe the tide really has turned, at last. The next step should be to go on the offensive and ensure that the students become more aware of “the strong, legal, moral and historic claim the Jewish people have to Judea and Samaria.”
Thank u mike for going. I love u. Lea
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Thanks for calling so much attention to this! Keep up the great work you are doing!
Thank you Jon. Our generation was aware of how Jews were demonized and stigmatized in the 1930’s but couldn’t imagine seemingly decent people going along. Now we know what that looks like.