IEC Intern Activism: Responding to Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions

At the beginning of the school year, campuses across Chicago were targeted by the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement through local activists who have joined a national movement calling for divestment from companies that do business with Israel.

If you haven't heard of the term BDS, it has been defined as an international movement whose goal is to delegitimize Israel using divestment, boycotts and sanctions as its primary method of challenging Israel's right to exist as a Jewish, democratic state. For a more thorough definition see the Israel Action Network's description.  

BDS is a moving target. The movement looks for every avenue possible to achieve the goal of their agenda. They will target any company that does business with Israel, Israeli academics, Israeli products, Sabra Hummus, sister-city partnerships, you name it: if it has any relationship with Israel it will be targeted. The BDS agenda is clear both by what it calls for: divestment from Israel, sanctions against Israel, boycotting Israel. And by what it never calls for: a peace process, resumption of negotiations, security in the region, a two-state solution--and ultimately the movement never calls for peace.

This particular BDS campaign is a national attempt to target TIAA-CREF. Local organizers have spearheaded the agenda in cities, churches and campuses throughout the nation. In Chicago, the movement is asking people to "tell" TIAA-CREF to divest its money (people's pensions) from companies that do business with Israel. Organizers have asked people to sign a petition and have held "teach-in" sessions and events "educating" and activating groups around this goal.

How does this pertain to campus? In Chicago student activists and outside organizations have targeted faculty to sign a petition and "tell" TIAA-CREF to pull its funds from businesses such as Caterpillar, Hewlett Packard, Motorola, and other American businesses. In addition to this, multiple events were held across campuses in Chicago, spreading false information about Israel and calling to action those who would join their cause.

The IEC is always on the front-lines combatting anti-Israel activity on campus. In this case, our IEC Interns pulled together on this issue and collectively decided to tackle the BDS movement head-on by writing an open letter to faculty on campus addressing the facts about BDS and the damage that it causes. We are so proud of our IEC Interns and the determination they took to stand up against this campaign on campus. The following is a copy of the letter:

Dear Professor,

My name is ___________, I am a senior at ___________ and I am also an intern for the Israel Education Center.

I am writing to you about one of the latest campaigns by the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement that is waging a political, economic, cultural, and ideological campaign to delegitimize the State of Israel.  The BDS movement and other students on campus will be asking you to sign a petition to tell TIAA-CREF, who handles your retirement accounts, to divest from American companies that do business with the State of Israel.

If enacted, this divestment will hurt American businesses and could cost thousands of Americans their jobs.  Divesting money from companies like Motorola, Hewlett-Packard, Caterpillar, and others, will not help the Palestinian people gain a state of their own.

The BDS movement does not call for negotiations between two responsible partners, it does not advocate for the security of both Palestinians and Israelis, it does not hope for a two-state solution for two peoples living side by side, and it does not want peace. 

Instead, the BDS movement demonizes and delegitimizes Israel's right to exist as a Jewish and democratic state and has done nothing to promote peace or for the betterment of Palestinian lives.

I believe that we as students and faculty can make a difference in regards to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but under fair and negotiable terms where all sides are heard and considered.

When you receive the petition, I urge you to please consider my letter and support a true peace between parties in the region.  Do not support movements like BDS that only seek to destroy the State of Israel rather than to build a Palestinian homeland.

Thank you for your consideration,


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