Swarthmore SJP Calls for University to Join BDS

October 26, 2018
Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Swarthmore’s Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) chapter is calling on the university to divest from companies that do business with the Israel.

The Phoenix, Swarthmore’s student newspaper, reports that SJP held a rally on Oct. 9 calling on the school to divest from seven specific companies – a list that included Boeing, Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard, Hyundai and Hewlett-Packard – that “are complicit in Israeli settlement of disputed land.”

“I think the goal is more broadly is several things: get Israel to end the blockade on Gaza, get Israel to end its military occupation of the West Bank, and allow Palestinians the right of return, which they are guaranteed under international law,” SJP member Fouad Dakwar said at the rally.

Swarthmore Students for Israel wrote in an Oct. 10 statement on Facebook that they “vehemently condemn” SJP’s latest announcement:

Israel is an issue that supersedes religious and political lines and we firmly stand with the Pro-Israel community, both Jewish and non-Jewish alike. As such we recognize the variety of opinions within the pro-Israel spectrum but come together with the soul binding belief that Israel has the right to exist and that the Jewish people have a right to self-determination. Furthermore, Swarthmore College prides itself on critical thinking, open dialogue, and respect for each other’s humanity and right to existence. The BDS movement has proven time and time again that it strictly opposes every single one of these values.

At this time we are unaware how SJP plans to initiate this campaign or how it will manifest, but our student and alumni community can rest assured that we will do our utmost to combat it in all forms as it reveals itself. When the time comes, we hope our allies will reach out and help us defeat this.

The reality stands that pro-Israel and Jewish students are harassed and/or assaulted, both on the national level and within the Swarthmore community. It is unacceptable. The support is here. The community is here. We are here.

Swarthmore Students for Israel’s co-president, Rebekah Katz, wrote an op-ed in The Phoenix titled “BDS is a Denial of My Existence” arguing that while she is a progressive who is critical of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and supportive of a two-state solution, SJP seeks to destroy Israel altogether:

In my experience, however, advocates of Students for Justice in Palestine don’t necessarily see my viewpoint. They often make the claim Zionism is defined as white supremacy and colonialism, and advocate for BDS as a solution to that erroneous definition, and fail to recognize the spectrum of opinions within the pro-Israel community. If they’re going to draw these conclusions, than they also need to understand how the organizations and movements they support reflect terribly on the cause they claim to be fighting for. When I see Students for Justice in Palestine, I see their co-founder Hatem Bazian perpetuating blatant antisemitism on Twitter by retweeting memes of a foolishly depicted Hassidic men with the overlay “Mom, look! I is chosen! And now I rape, smuggle or steal the land of the Palestinians! #Ashke #Nazi;” I see aggressive and intimidating protest exhibited at UCLA’s Indigenous Peoples Unite panel discussion; I see major activists tweeting (and deleting) things like “‘I would have killed all the jews in the world, But I kept some to show the world why I killed them’ -Hitler- #PrayForGaza #PrayForPalestina.” I see support for indiscriminate rocket fire from Gaza landing in civilian homes filled with mothers and children and stabbing attacks and shootings, and blatant conflations of anti-Zionism and antisemitism perpetuated by their own advocates despite my hearing their own constant assertions that they are not the same thing.

Katz added that the SJP-BDS crowd tends to view Israel as simply being a safe haven of “white European and American” Jews, yet ignore the fact that Israel is a place of refuge for “Jews of color in the Yemeni, Mizrachi, North Africa, Sephardic, and Arab communities.”

“To advocate for the disintegration of the Jewish state via BDS is to advocate for the displacement of these very people,” Katz wrote. “And so how do I disregard the reality that the Jewish people are still in danger to this day, that six million of my people were massacred no more than 80 years ago and the constantly impending fear that there’s no telling when a massacre may happen again? How am I supposed to throw away the level of protection that Israel provides by supporting its disintegration? How am I supposed to ignore the millennia of pain my own people have faced? And so, how could I possibly support a movement that, at its core, threatens to take that away?”

Swarthmore Vice President of Finance and Administration Greg Brown told The Phoenix that the university does not divest from companies based on political purposes.

“The investment guidelines of the Board of Managers clearly state that endowment investment decisions are made without regard to social issues,” Brown said.

SJP’s prior activity on Swarthmore’s campus includes protesting a Swarthmore Students for Israel and CAMERA event on campus and calling for the school to boycott Sabra hummus. The university responded to the hummus protest by offering an alternate brand of hummus in addition to Sabra hummus.

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