September 23, 2018

Against our highest principles

“Bringing down Israel really will benefit everyone in the world, and everyone in society,” Lara Kiswani from the Arab Resource and Organizing Center stated on November 12. Of those who did not share her belief, she later went on to add, “As long as you continue to be on that side, I’m going to continue to hate you.”

Hate. What a painful, divisive, and undoubtedly ugly word. And there it was, used casually when Kiswani appeared on at a panel sponsored by the “BDS Caucus of UAW 2865” at UC Berkeley. This program was organized to support a disturbing resolution to boycott Israel that is up for a vote by University of California graduate students through their California Student Worker Union, UAW 2865, on December 4th.,

Her comments were jarring not only for their troubling nature, but also for their dangerous implications. Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement (BDS), proponents like Kiswani purport to seek peace in the Middle East, yet openly promote the destruction of Israel and encourage spreading a doctrine of hatred on campuses towards those who do not share their beliefs. This blacklist mentality does nothing to encourage peace and reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians. In fact, it only serves to push it further away by alienating both parties against each other. These biased perspectives create climates of unrest on campuses that only foster – and here’s that word again – hate.

Unfortunately, that is precisely what is being asked of UAW 2865. On December 4, thousands of members will be urged to vote to join the BDS movement against Israel. They will be asked to take a vow that prohibits student teachers from taking part in any form of academic exchange with Israel. They have already asked TAs to teach the merits of BDS in the classrooms, potentially encouraging to officially penalize students who may disagree, going directly against UC policy which states, “no instructor distort the instructional process in a manner which deviates from the responsibilities inherent in academic freedom.” And perhaps worse, they will not offer any opposing views, which Informed Grads, a group working to counter this effort, sought to provide.

Boycotting any exchange with Israeli academics or institutions purely on nationality is a clear violation of academic freedom. It prevents countless opportunities for learning, and halts the free exchange of ideas, which can contribute to important dialogues on peace.

Voting to support this measure won’t bring peace, only more hate. We must reject these one-sided efforts that undermine university policy and create a hostile environment for tens of thousands of UC students across the state. Our union should focus on official business such as securing fair wages and protections for workers, not involving themselves in an international conflict. Endorsing BDS will hurt our union, stifle academic freedom, and break down efforts to encourage peace through positive engagement. 

Please advise any UC Grad Students you may know they should vote no this Dec. 4th — more info available at www.informedgrads.org