BDS

Clockwise from top left, Kallen Dimitroff, government junior and University-wide representative, Mohammed Nabulsi, law student, law school representative and co-author of the resolution, Mukund Rathi, computer science senior and co-author of the resolution and Jonathan Barak Dror, economics sophomore and University-wide representative debate the passing of the divestment resolution at the Student Government meeting Tuesday evening.

Photo Credit: Mariana Gonzalez | Daily Texan Staff

Tuesday was the 26th anniversary of the day 10,000 Chinese students gathered in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square to mourn reform leader Hu Yaobang in the now-infamous Tiananmen Square protests and massacre. 

As many as 1.2 million people gathered over the course of the student-led movement before the Chinese government ordered a military crackdown against the peaceful protesters, which killed an unknown number of its participants and purged as many as 10,000 of their supporters afterward. Though the Tiananmen Square protests ended in tragedy, they are remembered today as a powerful moment when young people stood up for their beliefs against an iron system.

Though half a world away, the 40 Acres has a similarly poignant history of student activism. The first University protest took place in 1897, and there have been dozens if not hundreds of student demonstrations since.

According to John Woodrow Storey ad Mary L. Kelley’s Twentieth-Century Texas: A Social and Cultural History, student activism was the catalyst for the University’s full racial integration in 1965, and the fear of Vietnam War protesters rushing the Tower brought about the installation of the hedges and groves now decorating the West Mall in the late 1960s. Last December’s “die-in” for Eric Garner, the black man killed by a white police officer in New York over the summer, was another example of the bold activist spirit ingrained in the culture of the student body.

The recent debate between Unify Texas and UTDivest is the most recent incarnation of student activism on UT’s campus. On April 7, the first debate about the BDS movement, or Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, took place in the weekly Student Government meeting between student groups UTDivest and Unify Texas. Since then, our campus and this opinion page have been alight with powerful and well argued statements to the virtues of both causes.

The vibrancy of character, passion of purpose and dedication to an issue whose complexity frightens most away from serious consideration was a powerful and inspiring experience for me as a student. During one of the most formative times in all of our lives, where we spend our days learning and becoming our truest selves in four years devoted to self-discovery, the BDS debate often left me wondering: What more could I do for this campus, for this world?

For this reason and many others, I feel blessed that this movement happened on campus. It is imperative that more debates on campus happen, too. Though the issue was decided by Student Government Tuesday night against the resolution, I hope that an environment of open discourse is nurtured by this University. It is important for students to be able to speak freely about the issues that matter and be challenged so that we as a student body may grow stronger in our personal convictions, which only an environment of open discourse can ensure. So, to all of my fellow students who contributed to that, please let me say thank you.

However, in future on-campus debates, I hope participants will exercise restraint and sensitivity, which I often felt was lacking over the last two weeks. Though I admired the debaters’ passion, this cause engendered more hate between students than I felt comfortable witnessing. By the time SG voted, accusations of bigotry and virulent personal character attacks on student leaders in both movements became the name of the game. For shame.

Inspiring others and fighting for justice is noble. What this debate devolved into over the last two weeks was not. This debate mattered. Protecting the integrity of it was sacred. Hurting someone else is not the same as helping yourself.

Now that this debate is over, it would be too easy for one side or the other to become complacent with self-satisfaction at winning or rueful of their loss. Protect yourselves from such temptation.

As student activists, we can capture the voice of campus. We can make change happen. We can inspire our fellow students. 

Or we can hurt them, ourselves and our cause. To all of the participants in the fight over BDS, many of whom I believe did not take part in the mudslinging of the baser parts of the last few weeks, I urge you to serve our campus by holding your peers accountable to their cause when some may bow to the temptation of fighting with anything other than reason. 

Conduct yourselves with the dignity your cause demands of you as its representatives. If the cost is to the students around us and a community of openness, nothing is worth it. Fight the good fight, Longhorns. Just be wary of the repercussions.

Smith is a history and humanities junior from Austin. Follow Smith on Twitter @claireseysmith.

Former SG leaders sign open letter in opposition to BDS resolution

Seventeen former Student Government leaders signed a letter addressed to the current SG executive board and Assembly, urging them to oppose a divestment resolution set to be voted on Tuesday night.

The resolution calls for the University of Texas Investment Management Company to divest from corporations that authors said “facilitate the oppression of the Palestinian people by the State of Israel.”

The former leaders, who served SG terms ranging as far back as 1983, said SG should not associate with the boycott-divestment-sanctioning – known as BDS – movement upon which the resolution is based.  

"The BDS movement is rooted in a philosophy that rejects Israel’s very existence," the letter read. "While reasonable people can debate the merits and faults of Israel's specific policies, supporting BDS necessarily means supporting a philosophy that advocates the destruction of Israel and its inhabitants. We do not think the Student Government Assembly should align itself with such a philosophy."

Seven of the eight most recent SG presidents and vice presidents signed the letter, including last term's president and vice president, Kori Rady and Taylor Strickland.

The leaders also said Texas has kept close ties with Israel, regarding similarities in agricultural and policing policies.

"There is much that the state of Texas and Israel share, and the BDS movement attempts to undermine that relationship," the letter read.

The Assembly will vote on the resolution Tuesday night.

To read more about the debate surrounding the resolution, click here. 

To read about the resolution as it stands, before it heads to the Assembly for a vote tonight, click here. 

Read the letter here:

Former SG Leaders in Opposition to BDS and AR-3

Recently, the Palestine Solidarity Movement, in concert with other forces, proposed a resolution in Student Government urging the University of Texas Investment Management Company to divest itself from companies that the PSM deems to facilitate the oppression of Palestinians. 

Specifically, the resolution is part of a broader platform of boycotts, divestment and sanctions that has been proposed by likeminded individuals nationwide. I agreed with my compatriots on the Texan’s editorial board last Friday when we rightly recommended that the Student Government vote down this asinine resolution because it is not SG’s role to meddle in “foreign policy squabbles.” That much is true. But it is also true that this resolution, like any part of the misguided BDS movement, is hypocritical, anti-Semitic and wrong.

Proponents of BDS claim that such tactics are necessary to dissuade Israel from continuing its illegal occupation of Palestine. They have also been emboldened by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent dishonorable comments opposing the creation of an independent Palestinian state, an ostensible Israeli policy goal for the past 22 years. 

I, for one, certainly agree that Netanyahu’s comments are inexcusable and some of Israel’s conduct is nothing short of egregious. But punitive measures against the whole of Israeli society, such as the divestment considered by the university, are most definitely the wrong way to voice opposition to the many foreign policy mistakes that the Netanyahu government has made.

Countless other countries around the world, including Armenia, China, India, Russia and Turkey, to name a few, occupy others’ lands. Plenty more, including Georgia, Morocco and Serbia, have dragged their feet on recognizing breakaway regions as independent. Where is the controversy and, more appropriately, where are the organized punitive measures?

There are none, of course, because disagreeable foreign policy actions do not necessitate the collective punishment of a politically, culturally and ethnically diverse group of people such as the Israeli public. Comparisons to the South African apartheid, as the BDS movement regularly makes, are hyperbolic and incorrect.

During apartheid, blacks in South Africa were systemically denied their basic civil rights nationwide. They were denied rights based solely on the color of their skin, and no other rationale. In Israel proper — that is, the portion of the nation outside of the Palestinian territories that are the Gaza Strip and the West Bank — all citizens, regardless of race, ethnicity or religion, are granted full civil rights. More than a million Arab citizens enjoy all the rights and privileges of Israeli society, including the right to partake in all portions of the Israeli welfare state, vote and hold public office.

Palestinians in the occupied territories face discrimination and unneeded roadblocks to self-determination, but they are simply not victims of apartheid; rather, they are victims of a dragged-out war with a neighboring nation. The comparison to the apartheid is simply, to say the least, one of apples and oranges.

Sadly, though, BDS is not about seeking justice for Palestinians. Instead, it is about seeking to stigmatize, isolate and otherwise attack the Jews in our two-thousand year quest for a homeland. As reported in a New York Times op-ed, the leaders of BDS have revealed that their true quest is not an independent State of Palestine, peacefully coexisting side-by-side with an independent State of Israel. Omar Barghouti, one of BDS’ founders, was quoted by the article as saying that he does not want “a two-state solution,” instead advocating for “a Palestine next to a Palestine.” National leaders of BDS like Barghouti want one Palestine and no Israel.

I support a two-state solution, as do almost all of the American-Jewish community and a majority of the Israeli public. Sadly, Netanyahu does not appear to share this sentiment. He does, after all, have a lot of company in that position, including the Ayatollah of Iran, Hamas and the BDS movement. Prejudice, hatred and bigotry, be it Netanyahu’s islamophobia or BDS’s anti-Semitism, have much more in common than their proponents may admit.

Horwitz is a government senior from Houston. Follow Horwitz on Twitter @NmHorwitz.

Photo Credit: Ryan Ladd | Daily Texan Staff

Editor's Note: The Texan received this piece around the same time as Mukund Rathi's piece. They are not intended to be read as a point/counterpoint.

At the University of Texas, we pride ourselves on our commitment to fostering cutting edge research, high quality education, and open dialogue and discussion. Over the past few weeks, a movement known as BDS, or Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, has begun on campus and stands counter to these ideals.

The movement, taking the form of a piece of legislation written by members of the Palestinian Solidarity Committee, will be introduced at the second Student Government assembly meeting on Tuesday. The aims of this campaign are ostensibly to encourage the University of Texas Investment Management Company to divest from certain companies that do business in the State of Israel.  However, the true motives behind this movement are less than clear.

Several key BDS activists, including one of its founders, have used BDS as a tool to advocate for the delegitimization and the demolition of the Jewish State of Israel.

Even assuming best intentions on the part of the organizers at UT, it is clear that the proposed legislation is problematic, and our campus community would be well served by a careful discussion of the dangers posed by this divisive campaign.

A group of students at the University, myself included, have launched a campaign called Unify Texas. Our goal is to show the student body and UT community that one does not have to be pro-Israel to oppose BDS legislation which would divide the student body and alienate certain groups on campus.

Unify Texas has made clear that it is open and willing to facilitate discussion with anyone — be they pro-Israel, anti-Israel, indifferent or anywhere in between. However, Unify Texas is attempting to draw a distinction between the positive dialogue that is possible between people who share opposing ideologies and the negative, one-sided divestment resolution proposed before Student Government, which we view as extreme.

UT Divest’s claim that this legislation will be helpful to Palestinians is misleading. In fact, BDS damages the Palestinian economy and negatively affects the tens of thousands of Palestinians who are employed by companies in Israel and the West Bank, compounding the struggle for each side to achieve the mutual goal of peace. This is crucial to understanding this ultimately flawed legislation.

Unify Texas will remain sincere in our effort to unite our campus community. We will not label BDS proponents at UT or attempt to supply their motives. We reject the notion that they attempt to incite anti-Semitism. However, as students at the University, we are obligated to examine the potential effects of the legislation and observe how similar campaigns have negatively affected other campuses.

The passage of BDS would be extremely damaging to campus atmosphere. If our Student Government votes to endorse a one-sided view predicated on delegitimizing and demonizing the State of Israel, it will alienate and isolate many students whose opinions differ. It would not be acceptable for our Student Government to declare to a large group of students on this campus that their passionately held views are irrelevant or misguided.

Students who feel differently than the sponsors of the resolution would feel antagonized and isolated by our student government, because of deep familial and emotional ties to the issue at hand. Student Government is not the correct vehicle for UT Divest because of these undeniable facts. The complexity of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict merits a much more nuanced and inclusive approach, one that accounts for the sensitivities of all sides.

We strongly encourage Student Government to take a stand for unity on our campus by opposing BDS legislation. Representatives should make an unequivocal statement to their constituents that advocating for one side in a debate need not bring down the others. Decisions concerning political and business relationships with Israel should be made on Capitol Hill and in corporate boardrooms, not in the Student Activity Center. We strongly encourage a dialogue on campus regarding the issue, yet abide in our conviction that passage of BDS legislation would do a great disservice to our University and our campus community.

Fountain is a government junior from Pelham, New York.

Photo courtesy of the Palestine Solidarity Committee.

Editor's Note: The Texan received this piece around the same time as Walker Fountain's piece. They are not intended to be read as a point/counterpoint.

 

In February, Harvard University’s Hillel center for Jewish students co-sponsored a civil rights panel on “Selma to Ferguson” which included Jewish civil rights veteran Dorothy Zellner. Zellner is also an unapologetic supporter of the Palestinian people and their call for a Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement to end the Israeli occupation of Palestine. This caused confusion, however, because Hillel International (which I’ll call “International”) disallows engagement with individuals or entities which support BDS or “demonize” Israel.

 

International typically requires its chapters to react far more sharply to undogmatic speakers. In January of 2014, the Hillel chapter at UC Santa Barbara rescinded its invitation for Jewish author David Harris-Gershon to speak on his book about reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians. Harris-Gershon committed the sin of backing the BDS movement (though he still supports the two-state solution), so Hillel decided his presence would lead to a “hurtful distraction.”

 

Shortly after the Harvard panel, Zellner and other civil rights veterans were barred from speaking at Hillel chapters at UMass Amherst and MIT. Just last month, the Hillel chapter at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania decided to host Zellner and others on a panel and was threatened with legal action by International.

 

International stated that the panel would be acceptable so long as the discussion was restricted to American civil rights and did not take up BDS and the occupation of Palestine. At Harvard, Zellner explained the problem with this perspective: Her support for BDS is simply a continuation of “the work that I learned from black people” in the civil rights movement. International’s standards thus cause a serious contradiction for civil rights activists and their underlying principle of justice.

 

The Swarthmore Hillel realized this contradiction in December of 2013 and made a choice to err on the side of justice, passing a resolution to “become an Open Hillel.” They charged International with trying to present a “monolithic face” which does not represent American Jewish diversity, falsely equating Israel with Judaism and generally obstructing open discussion with its restrictive standards.

 

The legal threats by International have culminated in Swarthmore Hillel’s effective expulsion from the organization. Open Hillel has since become a larger movement of Jewish students who believe that dialogue with Palestinians and anti-Zionist Jews is important and should not be subject to International’s authority.

 

Justice-minded students at UT Austin now have a similar choice to make. The Palestine Solidarity Committee has formed the UTDivest coalition, which calls on UT to end its multimillion dollar investments in corporations that facilitate the Israeli occupation of Palestine.

They hope to pass such a resolution in Student Government and demonstrate student support through a petition. Of course, International is against such activism and so the Texas Hillel chapter is campaigning against UTDivest for its similarity to the BDS movement. They have formed a “Unify Texas” campaign which, on its Facebook page, calls for “open dialogue” and “peace and justice.” They do not provide any alternatives to BDS. They do not mention Texas Hillel and did not answer repeated requests from the author to publicly or privately clarify their relationship.

 

That relationship is incredibly important for understanding Unify Texas, as outlined in an anti-BDS email that Texas Hillel circulated. Even while acknowledging that some of its members “struggle with some of Israel’s policies,” Hillel advocates International’s standards of restriction and states that its members “must speak with one voice,” particularly a pro-Israel and anti-BDS voice. The unity and open dialogue that Unify Texas is calling for is a sham, as it rests on a core of restrictive standards and official dogma.

 

Moreover, as UTDivest supporter and SG representative Mohammed Nabulsi explained to The Daily Texan, the first prerequisite of open dialogue is justice. Nabulsi explains that “BDS is a step toward leveling the negotiating playing field so that the Israeli government is forced to take Palestinian demands seriously.”

 

PSC has consistently followed this standard of open and just debate, having recently hosted public demonstrations and events to discuss Palestine and BDS when their criticisms of Texas Hillel were ignored or deleted. They will host yet another public forum Wednesday to discuss UTDivest and BDS with the UT community before their SG resolution is voted on next week.

 

Students who actually care about justice should stand with movements like Open Hillel, UTDivest and BDS. This is not simply a “foreign policy squabble”, as the Texan editorial board wrongly framed it.

 

Those who stand against justice on the basis of “open dialogue” are not only paradoxical, but also on the wrong side of history. We should all reread Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous Birmingham letter in which he rejects the deception of white liberal calls for patience and unity, because freedom “must be demanded by the oppressed.” Do not forget that King himself was a striking point of disunity, having been overwhelmingly hated by white America and sabotaged by the federal government for his radical allegiance to justice.

 

We should honestly consider the statements on Palestine by South African anti-apartheid leaders such as Nelson Mandela, who stated that “we know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.” Do not forget that Mandela was considered to be a terrorist by the United States for decades. Justice is justice even if it goes against the will of power, and all peoples deserve it, including the Palestinians.

 

Rathi is a computer science honors junior from Austin.

Photo Credit: Caleb Kuntz | Daily Texan Staff

Student-led movement UTDivest will propose legislation to Student Government asking for the University of Texas Investment Management Company to pull investments from corporations the group believes facilitate the oppression of Palestinians. 

Unify Texas, another campus movement, has expressed disagreements with UTDivest and has garnered support through social media and an online petition. UTDivest, which the Palestinian Solidarity Committee founded, is part of a larger boycott-divestment-sanctions (BDS) movement started by Palestinian civil society organizations.

Katie Jensen, SG graduate student representative, sociology graduate student supporter of UTDivest, said the movement is fighting for human rights and equality.

“I don’t want my tuition money going to the corporations that have produced the infrastructure that enables the segregation, inequality and painful uncertainties that subjugate Palestinian people,” Jensen said.

Brandon Mond, government senior and one of the founders of Unify Texas, said divestment divides pro-Israel and pro-Palestine groups and cuts off dialogue.

“Dialogue and the free exchange of ideas is sacrosanct at a university,” Mond said. “Where the people who are bringing this divestment movement refuse to engage in dialogue with groups that have opposing ideologies, we think that’s wrong, and we oppose that.”

Mohammed Nabulsi, SG law school representative and supporter of UTDivest, said Unify Texas does not understand the BDS movement.

“Unify Texas relies on a mischaracterization of BDS and our goals here on campus in order to make a straw man argument,” Nabulsi said. “BDS is a step towards leveling the negotiating playing field so that the Israeli government is forced to take Palestinian demands seriously.”

The BDS movement has gained traction at other American universities, such as DePaul University and University of California-Davis. Student groups at these schools have been successful in passing student legislation asking for the divestment of their universities from corporations that the groups believe help to oppress Palestinians. 

Nabulsi said UTDivest plans to introduce its legislation in support of divestment at the SG Assembly meeting Tuesday. The legislation states that investing in corporations which, according to UTDivest, participate in illegal activities or facilitate in oppression of the Palestinian people compromises the University's core values.

“The University of Texas fails to uphold its values of ‘improving the human condition at local and global levels through programs that advance equality’ by investing in companies that facilitate and profit from the illegal occupation of Palestine and systematic human rights violations,” Nabulsi said. 

Mond said their cause has no political affiliations.

“You don’t have to be of a certain mind-set to oppose BDS in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” Mond said. “We have pro-Israel students who are against it for obvious reasons. We have pro-Palestinian students who are against divestment also because they don’t think it’s the place of Student Government to decide this.”

University spokesman J. B. Bird said the Office of the President is aware of the two groups, although they have not been approached about the situation. The UT System Board of Regents would make the ultimate decision to divest, according to Bird.

“We have not been formally approached about this question, and we do not have any formal response,” Bird said. “It hasn’t been brought up, so we don’t have a position on it.”

Correction: This article has been amended since its original publication. UTDivest's proposed legislation says investing in corporations that participate in illegal activities or facilitate the oppresion of Palestinian people is contrary to the University's core values.

In 2010, South African survivor of apartheid and human rights activist Archbishop Desmond Tutu came out in support of student efforts to urge universities’ divestment from “companies that enable and profit from the injustice of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land and violation of Palestinian human rights.” He said the following:

“I have been to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, and I have witnessed the racially segregated roads and housing that reminded me so much of the conditions we experienced in South Africa under the racist system of Apartheid. I have witnessed the humiliation of Palestinian men, women, and children made to wait hours at Israeli military checkpoints routinely when trying to make the most basic of trips to visit relatives or attend school or college, and this humiliation is familiar to me and the many black South Africans who were corralled and regularly insulted by the security forces of the Apartheid government.” 

Noting the “leading role” students played in ending corporate “complicity in Apartheid,” he encouraged the same determination – and similar tactics of boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) – in the struggle to end apartheid and occupation in Palestine.

With successful divestment resolutions or referenda passed recently at most of the University of California system schools, Stanford, Loyola, Northwestern, and DePaul, and the University of Toledo, among other schools, it is clear that students are heeding Tutu’s call. This is all in addition to growing support for a boycott of Israeli academic and cultural institutions among academic and cultural workers, including physicist Stephen Hawking, writer Alice Walker, actor Danny Glover, and many others. 

In spite of misrepresentations (including false allegations of terrorist sympathies and anti-Semitism) and powerful campaigns to derail BDS around the country, BDS is spreading, and it is time for Longhorns to take a stand against occupation and apartheid and for Palestinian civil society’s call for BDS. 

Part of that stand includes urging the UT system to divest funds from Alstom, Cemex, Estée Lauder, Hewlett-Packard, Procter & Gamble, and United Technologies Corporation, among others, companies that profit from or support the human rights abuses committed by the state of Israel against the Palestinian people. From contributing materials and infrastructure to illegal Israeli settlements (Alstom, Cemex, P&G), to providing technology for checkpoints (HP) and weapons (UTC), to financial and ideological support for Israel’s discriminatory policies and expanded occupation efforts (Estée Lauder), these corporations are complicit in violations of international law, and UT’s investments in them make our University complicit as well. 

Indeed, Israeli apartheid and South African apartheid are not identical. In fact, some South African activists consider Israeli policy “more extensive and brutal” than South African apartheid outside the 1967 borders, but more similar inside Israel proper with respect to racial discrimination faced by Palestinians. Years of collective punishment, actions that Amnesty International believes rise to the level of war crimes, and discriminatory laws put the lie to the Israeli government’s claims of self-defense, democracy  & equal rights in the occupied territories and support for academic freedom. Popular racism against Arabs, African immigrants and others has been stoked by Israeli officials who seek to stifle dissent and maintain the brutal status quo.

UT has a proud history of student activism, including anti-apartheid struggle. We call upon the entire UT community to build on that history. Support the divestment resolution, sign the petition, and help the Palestine Solidarity Committee and allies build BDS on campus.

Feyh is a lecturer in Communication Studies and member of the International Socialist Organization and the Palestine Solidarity Committee.

A large wooden wall painted gray and covered in hand-painted quotes trying to persuade UT students to support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement stands in the West Mall. The BDS movement is a consumer, academic and cultural boycott of Israel. Thinly veiled as a nonviolent movement to further the Palestinian cause, the campaign is an acrimonious attack against the academic integrity and open dialogue on which our campus thrives. Open dialogue and education are the only way to achieve peace in the Middle East, and the BDS movement is in staunch opposition to that fact. The BDS movement takes an extreme position that is no way a reflection of Americans’ core ideas and values, and it has no place on the UT campus.

Leaders in Washington and on campus support a strong U.S.-Israel relationship. Specifically, President Barack Obama and UT Student Government President Thor Lund similarly understand that only through dialogue and education can we achieve peace in the Middle East.

Today, Obama arrives in Jerusalem to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Earlier this month, Lund joined 2,000 students at a pro-Israel conference in Washington, D.C to learn about the partnership between the two nations.

As hard as they try, the BDS organizers at UT can’t seem to cut off all ties with Israel. This week PSC members will screen the movie “5 Broken Cameras,” a film critical of Israel but co-directed by an Israeli, funded by Israeli organizations and Israel’s government, and nominated as an Israeli film for an Oscar. Boycotting Israel harms even Israel’s critics.

Support for a Palestinian state and support for the U.S.-Israel relationship are not mutually exclusive. Speaking in Cairo in 2009, Obama called the bond between the U.S. and Israel “unbreakable,” while also making a powerful statement that a Palestinian nation was in all party’s best interests. Addressing the Palestinian Authority and Israel alike he said, “The situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable,” concluding, “America will not turn our backs on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity and a state of their own.” 

It’s certainly not Israel holding the Palestinian people back. The 1947 U.N. Partition Plan was the first time Israel accepted a Palestinian state only for it to be rejected by the Arab world. In 2005, Israel unilaterally withdrew all of its troops and citizens from the Gaza Strip. In 2008, Israel offered close to 98 percent of the West Bank and shared control over Jerusalem. None of these peace offerings have moved Palestinian leadership.

While waiting for a peace partner, Israel has become a “startup nation”, a progressive society that allows gays to serve openly in the military, women to comprise 23 percent of Israel’s new parliament and places no limits on freedom of speech or of the press. Israel offers greater freedoms to Arab citizens, who comprise 20 percent of the total population, than any other country in its region. Arab Israelis vote, are represented in parliament and sit on the Supreme Court. 

The partnership between the U.S. and Israel strengthens American businesses and security. Microsoft, Google and Apple, Inc. are a few of the approximately 100 companies with active branches in Israel and the countries exchange more than $78 million worth of goods and services daily. The U.S. and Israel are developing together the most sophisticated anti-missile defense systems and Israeli military innovations are saving American lives in Afghanistan and Iraq.

While not disregarding or distracting from Palestinian issues, the goal of Israel Peace Week is to accurately depict Israel, a nation that, since its founding in 1948, has never seen a second of non-democratic rule, a country that is unabashedly, unequivocally pro-American. 

Rather than divesting, our University has an opportunity to invest in dialogue. Our presidents have chosen the path towards peace, and we welcome you to join us. 

Frydberg is a Middle Eastern Studies sophomore from San Antonio.

A large wooden wall painted gray and covered in hand-painted quotes trying to persuade UT students to support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement stands in the West Mall. The BDS movement is a consumer, academic and cultural boycott of Israel. Thinly veiled as a nonviolent movement to further the Palestinian cause, the campaign is an acrimonious attack against the academic integrity and open dialogue on which our campus thrives. Open dialogue and education is the only way to achieve peace in the Middle East, and the BDS movement is in staunch opposition to that fact. The BDS movement takes an extreme position that is no way a reflection of Americans’ core ideas and values, and it has no place on the UT campus.

Leaders in Washington and on campus support a strong U.S.-Israel relationship. Specifically, President Barack Obama and UT Student Government President Thor Lund similarly understand that only through dialogue and education can we achieve peace in the Middle East.

Today, Obama arrives in Jerusalem to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Earlier this month, Lund joined 2,000 students at a pro-Israel conference in Washington, D.C this month to learn about the partnership between the two nations.

As hard as they try, the BDS organizers at UT can’t seem to cut off all ties with Israel. This week PSC members will screen the movie “5 Broken Cameras,” a film critical of Israel but co-directed by an Israeli, funded by Israeli organizations and Israel’s government, and nominated as an Israeli film for an Oscar. Boycotting Israel harms even Israel’s critics.

Support for a Palestinian state and support for the U.S.-Israel relationship are not mutually exclusive. Speaking in Cairo in 2009, Obama called the bond between the U.S. and Israel “unbreakable,” while also making a powerful statement that a Palestinian nation was in all party’s best interests. Addressing the Palestinian Authority and Israel alike he said, “The situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable,” concluding, “America will not turn our backs on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity and a state of their own.” 

It’s certainly not Israel holding the Palestinian people back. The 1947 U.N. Partition Plan was the first time Israel accepted a Palestinian state only for it to be rejected by the Arab world. In 2005, Israel unilaterally withdrew all of its troops and citizens from the Gaza Strip. In 2008, Israel offered close to 98 percent of the West Bank and shared control over Jerusalem. None of these peace offerings have moved Palestinian leadership.

While waiting for a peace partner, Israel has become a “startup nation”, a progressive society that allows gays to serve openly in the military, women to comprise 23 percent of Israel’s new parliament and places no limits on freedom of speech or of the press. Israel offers greater freedoms to Arab citizens, who comprise 20 percent of the total population, than any other country in its region. Arab Israelis vote, are represented in parliament and sit on the Supreme Court. 

The partnership between the U.S. and Israel strengthens American businesses and security. Microsoft, Google and Apple, Inc. are a few of the approximately 100 companies with active branches in Israel and the countries exchange more than $78 million worth of goods and services daily. The U.S. and Israel are developing together the most sophisticated anti-missile defense systems and Israeli military innovations are saving American lives in Afghanistan and Iraq.

While not disregarding or distracting from Palestinian issues, the goal of Israel Peace Week is to accurately depict Israel, a nation that, since its founding in 1948, has never seen a second of non-democratic rule, a country that is unabashedly, unequivocally pro-American. 

Rather than divesting, our University has an opportunity to invest in dialogue. Our presidents have chosen the path towards peace, and we welcome you to join us. 

Frydberg is a Middle Eastern Studies sophomore from San Antonio.

This is in response to the Firing Line published on March 1 titled “In support of dialogue, progress and peace,” which criticized the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.

The BDS movement initiated dialogue on a topic long suppressed by charges of anti-Semitism — namely, the illegitimate occupation of the Palestinian territories. Historically, the term “anti-Semite” was used to describe anyone who hated Jewish people. Today, it is used for anyone the Israeli supporters hate.

In the last 60 years, more than 60 resolutions have been presented in the UN against Israeli crimes. Most were never passed because of a U.S. veto. In the shadow of ineffective international response, Israel has continuously expanded its colonial occupation of the Palestinian lands. In 1947, about 7 percent of the land in the region was in Jewish hands. Today, Israel has expanded to 78 percent of the land. To quote B’tselem, the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, “Israel has created in the Occupied Territories a regime of separation based on discrimination, applying two separate systems of law in the same area and basing the rights of individuals on their nationality.”

If this colonial expansion, displacement and marginalization is “progress,” then Palestinians are better off without it.

The BDS movement is a response from people around the world to the Israeli apartheid. It is not opposed to an ethnic or religious group but rather to those who support this oppressive system.

Finally, peace cannot happen without addressing the root cause of the conflict: the Israeli occupation. It is unrealistic and unfair to ask the Palestinians to forget about their land, their freedom and their rights in return for peace from their occupier. The framework of the whole dialogue has to shift from concern for Israel’s security to the grievances of the Palestinian people. This is what BDS seeks to do.

Ramon Mejia
Religious studies and history senior
Iraqi veteran and former U.S. Marine