In the U.S., the movement to boycott, divest from, and sanction Israel (BDS)—together with the various modes of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic propaganda that come with it—has primarily made itself felt on college campuses and in academic organizations. Looking at the movement’s origins and methods, Dominic Green proffers some suggestions for combating it:
BDS seeks to transform the atmosphere of university intellectual and social life, in order to effect changes in government and business policy. BDS activists seek to control the intellectual environment, to create a “safe space” for the indoctrination of a biased and often false view of Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Thus, the practice of BDS tends toward the abuse of free speech, in that BDS activists frequently seek to curtail the freedom of others.
BDS uses strategies of exemplary stigmatization, intended to demonize the state of Israel and its supporters. Inevitably, and often by design, such intimidatory strategies include charging American Jews as complicit with the “racist” and “colonialist” Israeli state, or with “neoconservative” policies at home. While the freedom of speech of Jewish and pro-Israel students is BDS’s primary target, its strategies aim to curtail the freedom of speech of all students and faculty. . . .
The students should be treated like wayward children [whose] broad ignorance and deep sentimentality are being exploited by BDS advocates. At Vassar in 2016, the administration warned that if the student body voted to endorse BDS, the administration would cut funding for student social activities. The BDS supporters withdrew their motion. The college disco was more important than the struggle with colonialist imperialism.
University administrators may be afraid of alienating their faculty, but they are more afraid of alienating their alumni donors. Vassar has also reported a 6-percent decline in alumni donations. At Oberlin, Jewish alumni have also organized and withheld donations. Private colleges are businesses. Rather than censoring BDS advocacy, it is better to talk to the administrators in the real languages of the academy, professional and financial. Until then, BDS will remain the intersectionality of fools.