Statement on Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Campaign at New York University
As someone who cares deeply about New York University and the well-being of its campus community, I feel compelled to comment on the current Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign occurring at NYU.
Earlier this month, the small pro-BDS student constituency at NYU convinced over fifty student organizations to support a statement backing the key tenets of BDS and calling on the university to divest from companies engaged in business with Israel. And in an unprecedented fashion, the student organizations also pledged to boycott two NYU pro-Israel student groups as well as a range of national pro-Israel and Jewish organizations.
I proudly represent the Congressional District within which much of NYU’s campus is located, and my son is a graduate of NYU Law School. Due to my long-standing ties to the university, I feel that it is important to offer my support to the students working to counter these divisive and wrong-headed efforts and instead promote an environment of respectful dialogue between the two sides. I sincerely hope that in doing so they are able to educate the NYU community about the true nature of the BDS movement. As I have stated previously, the global BDS movement, despite deceptively presenting itself as both progressive and pro-peace, in reality advances neither of these principles.
The tactics used by the BDS movement do not reflect progressive values, and often smack eerily and hypocritically of fascism. Its proponents advocate for a complete boycott of Israeli businesses and institutions, ironically seeking to deny Israelis and their commercial and academic partners the same rights and freedoms that BDS supporters often claim they themselves are denied. BDS leaders denounce and actively prevent partnerships between Israelis and Palestinians. The BDS movement supports a full boycott of Israeli scholars and academic institutions, directly undermining the ability of these largely progressive intellectuals and activists to work at the core of the pro-peace movement in Israel advocating for the rights of Palestinians by blocking their interactions with like-minded individuals around the world.
Here in the U.S., pressure from BDS leaders has led to pro-Israel activists being barred from participating in the pro-LGBT Dyke March in Chicago and other liberal coalitions that have emerged since the 2016 election. And especially troubling is the movement’s deliberate hijacking of the political discourse on college campuses across North America. Universities have traditionally served as the training ground for the sophisticated and nuanced exchange of ideas. Supporters of BDS here in North America have refused to engage in dialogue with pro-Israel, pro-peace, pro-academic freedom student leaders and academics. By suppressing dialogue and advancing its biased narrative, BDS has engendered polarizing and incendiary environments on hundreds of campuses — an especially dangerous development in a time when our political leaders so frequently employ divisive and hateful rhetoric.
BDS’s aggressive actions — at times invoking anti-Semitic tropes and seeming to promote violence — have marginalized pro-Israel students and threatened Jewish life on many campuses. At Columbia University, for instance, members of the pro-BDS coalition put together an informational event entitled “I for Intifada.” While supposedly focused on acts of civil disobedience, the organizers failed to acknowledge that the recent Palestinian intifada in the early 2000s involved the deliberate killing and injuring of unarmed Israeli civilians. Further disturbing is the fact that BDS leaders in the U.S. recently spearheaded a national speaking tour headlined by Rasmea Odeh, a Palestinian terrorist convicted in the murder of two innocent Israelis. These inflammatory tactics deserve no place on our college campuses and undermine the kind of respectful and balanced engagement desperately needed to bring about understanding between the two sides.
Equally important, BDS’s one-sided approach only exacerbates prospects for an Israeli-Palestinian agreement and is a disservice to the cause of peace and stability. The BDS movement unfairly blames one party, and does nothing to encourage the two sides to return to direct negotiations, which is the only path to a lasting resolution. Essential to the BDS platform is a “full Palestinian right of return,” which is code for a one-state solution that would bring about Israel’s end. As such, BDS runs contrary to the only realistic and just outcome to the conflict embraced by the entire international community — the two-state solution — allowing both parties to actualize their right of self-determination. Instead of promoting peace, the mission of BDS is clear: to delegitimize Israel and deny the Jewish people a state of their own.
I can, of course, sympathize with the frustrations of progressive activists who, like me, want to see faster progress towards a peaceful resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But smart, nuanced, effective work in solidarity with peace-seeking Israelis and Palestinians aiming to end this conflict and bring about a two-state solution must mean a rejection of misguided and deceptive approaches like BDS that do not further the cause of peace or progressive values.
I applaud the student leaders working to counter this divisive and misleading BDS campaign in an intelligent and sensitive way. And I am hopeful that NYU students, in approaching this complex issue, will choose a path of dialogue and not of discord.