April 21, 2024

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On Wisconsin (Divest This!)


Days after questioning whether we should be taking student government divestment votes seriously any longer, along came Exhibit A-Z for why we shouldn’t, direct from the University of Wisconsin at Madison (UWM).

This story has everything, folks!

First, the familiar phenomena of an endless student council meeting to debate an anti-Israel divestment motion proffered by Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) who, after browbeating student leaders for hours, ended up seeing their measure tabled indefinitely.  But for SJP et al, “indefinitely” translates to “until we can sneak it back on the agenda when no one is looking.”

Sure enough, a new debate on the topic of divestment was announced and information distributed about it – you guessed it – during the Passover holiday!  And when Jewish students complained, rather than hold off debate until all interested parties could participate, student leaders changed the rules to make sure divestment could make it back on the agenda.

Fortunately, everyone was told, the original anti-Israel language would not be part of this new resolution.  Instead, student leaders were going to discuss a list of demands to be made to school administrators addressing divesting from companies involved with a wide range of controversial issues, like fossil fuels and general human rights abuses.  In other words, the vote would be about companies, not countries.

Ah, but here is where the amendment process kicks in.  For no sooner had the general (i.e., non-Israel-specific) measure gained support that SJP and their allies in student government added amendments that turned the thing back into a full-fledged BDS resolution.  “Not so!” screamed the conspirators.  Just because we accuse Israel of everything from practicing Apartheid to training cops to beat up black people, and demanding that companies on the BDS blacklist be specifically mentioned, that doesn’t mean the measure we just got passed has anything to do with BDS.

The first people who weren’t buying it were Jewish students, which is why the few of them attending the meeting marched out in disgust (along with principled non-Jewish student leaders).  And then – predictably and within hours – the school’s administration announced they would not act on any student demands generated in such an anti-democratic fashion, condemning the entire student government for good measure. 
Never missing an opportunity to play victim, the BDS cru then demanded the President of the university resign for not taking them seriously with regard to the various social justice causes they were hiding behind (perhaps because they had already demonstrated their total disinterest in black lives or economic justice by insisting all such issues take a distant back seat to BDS uber alles).  

Oh, and did I mention the lawsuits?

Hard to believe that in barely a month the BDSers managed to destroy campus comity by purposely driving wedges between minority groups, alienate student and school leaders at a time when both are facing the consequences of drastic state budget cuts), and turned student government into a laughingstock being condemned, mocked and targeted for dissolution when it’s not being sued.

And I haven’t even mentioned the punchline: that all of this activity was rushed to the finish line in April so that the BDSers could chalk up a “victory” before new student leadership took over on May 1st (with that new leadership likely to undo everything the boycotters just forced down everyone’s throats).  In other words, all the tears and anger and hatred and destruction the boycott brigade visited upon UWM was for nothing more than a one-day headline on Mondoweiss announcing an impotent political pose not destined to last the week.

So once again, can someone tell me why we need to treat this kind of activity as saying anything about campus opinion on Israel vs. the ludicrous and destructive behavior of those who hate the Jewish state?

We have lots of ideas, but we need more resources to be even more effective. Please donate today to help get the message out and to help defend Israel.

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