How to turn DePaul Divest towards peace
By Matthew Rudolph
Law Student at DePaul University
I wrote the following article after years of tracking the motives of several Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaigns. It became clear to me that their movement was designed to intimidate students simply on account of their support for Israel. Their campaign causes miniscule damage to the Israeli economy and, hence, their only practical effect is to have bullied pro-Israel students on campus. In the past, specifically when I was in undergrad, I was less inclined to speak out. Since then I have spent over a year in Israel, where I worked for several NGOs, interned with a Member of Knesset and staffed five birthright trips. When I returned to Chicago in 2011 to begin law school at DePaul University, I promised I would not sit quiet when and if BDS appeared again. Over the past few months, I have teamed up with Blue Demons Against BDS at DePaul - an admirable group of undergrad students who are unafraid to take a stand against BDS. The following article appeared in the DePaulia, the student newspaper at DePaul. It is a direct response to several op-eds written by BDS members.
Published: Tuesday, April 29, 2014
"I have a challenge for groups like Demon PAC: Please explain how, if we do not engage in BDS (boycotts, divestment and sanctions), we are to take direct action against Israel's human rights violations. 'Dialogue' is not direct action."
To DePaul Divest, the above-cited challenge apparently presents an impossible predicament. They ask how can one untangle the Israel-Palestinian conflict if not by belligerent rhetoric and calls of resistance. Significantly, they present their abrasive approach as the final available alternative, as if all reasonable options had already been exhausted. I can say with confidence that DePaul Divest has not exhausted all options.
I offer a one-step cure for DePaul Divest. The cure can revamp DePaul Divest from the bottom up and align it with a far more constructive initiative. This one fundamental step has the ability to trickle down and deter their crusade against those that support a peaceful narrative.
The cure? I ask, not challenge, DePaul Divest to openly accept that Israel has a right to exist as a Jewish State alongside a future Palestinian state. To make things easier, I'll take the first step and openly accept and support the Palestinian right of self-determination and their right to a sovereign state for the Palestinian people. Unfortunately, DePaul Divest cannot return the sentiment.
To the uninformed reader, this admission seems commonsensical: Israel, like all sovereign states, ought to be assured that its cities, markets, schools, museums, highways, holy sites, neighborhoods, courthouses, daycares and passport stamp will exist beyond any resolution. To the informed as well - including Presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama - a two state solution was and is regarded as morally imperative. Then why, as I exposed in my previous letter, does DePaul Divest insist on a one-state solution, in which each blade of Israeli grass becomes Palestine? More to the point, why on earth should DePaul University assist an organization that seeks one future state for one people instead of two future states for two people?
If adopted, the one-step cure would influence DePaul Divest in each facet of its agenda. Here's how:
If DePaul Divest wanted a solution for two states: DePaul Divest could lobby Palestinian leadership to accept one of several previously offered two state solutions. It is historical fact that on at least four occasions the Palestinians could have negotiated for statehood. In 1936, the Peel Commission's Partition Plan, led by Lord Peel of Great Britain, was accepted by Chaim Weizmann and the Jews but rejected by Hajj Amin al-Husseini (who subsequently went on to befriend and assist Adolf Hitler). In 1947, UN Resolution 181 provided sovereign borders for Jews along Arabs, again accepted by the Jewish Agency and rejected by the Arab Higher Committee. In 2000, Yasser Arafat turned down Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak's two-state solution, to the dismay of President Clinton. In 2008, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas gave Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert the same response to an even more generous offer. Prior to the most recent round of negotiations, Israel released 78 Palestinian terrorists with blood on their hands as a precondition to merely negotiate a two state solution. This gesture was ignored and on April 24, only a few days ago, President Abbas entered into a unity-agreement with Hamas, a globally recognized terrorist organization openly committed to the extermination of the Jewish people.
If DePaul Divest wants to end the "occupation" of Palestinians and stymy alleged human rights violations, would it not be logical to ask Palestinian leaders to accept a negotiated deal and take sovereign control over the Palestinian people? To DePaul Divest the answer is a resounding no because a two state solution cannot be reconciled with their premise that Israel must not exist. Consequently, one can deduce that to DePaul Divest it is more important that Israel not exist than it is to end the plight of Palestinians.
If DePaul Divest wanted a solution for two states: It would condemn statements made by BDS founders and representatives that promote the opposite. DePaul Divest would distance itself from BDS leader Omar Barghouti who has called for the "liberation of every inch of Palestine," and to continue fighting the "Zionist enemy." Likewise, it would distance itself from notable anti-Semites that have identified with BDS, for instance David Duke.
If DePaul Divest wanted a solution for two states: It would lobby Palestinian leadership to distance itself from Hamas and not link diplomatic arms with an organization committed to Israel's destruction. DePaul Divest would do this because their recognition of Israel's right to exist would be irreconcilable with the Hamas Charter's expressed mission to exterminate Jews and eliminate Israel.
If DePaul Divest wanted a solution for two states: It would not delegitimize Israel's security concerns. In DePaul Divest's previous letter it mocked Israel's development of a security barrier between areas of Israel and Palestinian territories. In 2002, the year before the security barrier was erected, Palestinian terrorists routinely crossed unguarded city borders and murdered 457 Israeli civilians by bombing public buses, family restaurants and teen nightclubs. After the security barrier was completed in 2009, only 8 civilian casualties were counted. If DePaul Divest recognized Israel's right to exist and, hence, the necessity to protect its civilians from unconscionable terror attacks, it would not deride this security measure.
If DePaul Divest wanted a solution for two states: It would see Israel as a key future ally and would work to promote viable partnerships. DePaul Divest openly ridiculed Israel's accomplishments in high-tech, pharmaceuticals, and agricultural desert development. If DePaul Divest valued a future two state solution, it would work to enable partnerships between Palestinian and Israelis and bridge efforts to bring Israeli technology into future Palestinian cities. Instead, it actively tears any budding cooperation at the seams, which only hurts future Palestinian advancements.
If DePaul Divest wanted a solution for two states: It would ask Palestinian leadership to study Israeli democracy and to implement said features in a future Palestinian parliament. DePaul Divest would actively promote the fair treatment afforded to Israeli minorities like Israeli Arabs and Druze, as well as ask that a future Palestinian state reciprocate these values. If DePaul Divest believed Israel should exist, it would not demonize a model for its future civil constructs.
If DePaul Divest wanted a solution for two states: It would not subject all the wrong people to the bite of BDS. It would accept Israel's potential role in future Palestinian prosperity and work accordingly. To that end, Palestinian President Abbas announced that he does not ask "anyone to boycott Israel itself. We have relations with Israel." Abbas reflects the fact that BDS only harms those Palestinians that would lose their jobs when sanctions are imposed against Israeli companies that employ these workers.
If DePaul Divest wanted a solution for two states: It would look to cease publication of Palestinian school textbooks that remove Israel from maps and vilify Israel and Jews as descendants of pigs. If DePaul Divest wanted a solution for two states, it would seek to eliminate funding to Palestinian schools that breed hatred during their years of vulnerability. It would, instead, ask to follow the Israeli educational model where a narrative of peace is inherently promoted.
If DePaul Divest wanted a solution for two states: It would condemn President Abbas' use of US foreign aide, in which families of incarcerated terrorists receive financial awards for their alleged sacrifice. DePaul Divest would look to preclude this overt cycle of violence and instead revert funds to organizations or programs that do not incentivize terrorism.
I do not expect DePaul Divest to listen. DePaul Divest has been marinating in Israel-hatred for too long to suddenly reverse course. In fact, just yesterday its sister chapter at New York University was found distributing mock eviction notices to Jewish students in a campus dorm. An agenda founded on such animosity has no place on a university campus. Students of DePaul University should work hard to ensure DePaul Divest does not hijack our pursuit for peace.