Univ. of California as a case study in the impotence of the Divestment ‘movement’


The following is a guest post by Jon from ‘Divest This!’

Paraphrasing from one of the greatest responses to criticism ever:

I am sitting in the smallest room of my house with the UC Berkeley Student Senate divestment resolution in front of me.  Soon, it shall be behind me.

Honestly, could anything possibly demonstrate the impotence and moral bankruptcy of the BDS “movement” better than the mayhem the boycotters have been causing up and down the West Coast over the last two months in their frantic effort to get student governments to pass divestment resolutions that – win or lose – are ignored by nearly everyone?

UC BERKLEY - Protest the veto of Israel Divestment

UC Berkley: Pro-Divestment Rally, 2010

Even the BDSers themselves have been decrying why the few votes that have gone their way are barely being noticed in the Jewish press, much less the mainstream media. 

But if they had thought about it for a moment, the response (or lack thereof) to these latest student government shenanigans (vs. the massive coverage divestments votes received when this same game played out in Berkeley in 2010) was entirely predictable.

For student government boycott and divestment votes have no political meaning whatsoever if they cannot be claimed to represent the broad opinion of the student body.  And while enough confusion surrounded where the student body stood on the Middle East conflict in 2010 to justify concerns that a “Yes” vote could be convincingly presented as representing student opinion, three years later everyone understands that these votes mean nothing of the kind. 

How do we know this?  Well even putting aside statements by school administrators condemning the votes and assuring everyone they will be completely ignored (since that just represents the views of “The Man”), every school where this subject has been fought out included heated all-night  debates between opposing sides (which alone demonstrates lack of consensus even among people passionate about the subject).

At most schools, divestment was voted down (sometimes for the third or fourth time in as many years).  But in the few cases where the boycotters managed to eke out a “Yes” vote, those decisions were immediately condemned by student leaders, editorials and letters to the editor in the student paper.  Which simply demonstrates that while some BDS groups have managed to figure out how to get their supporters elected to student government (where they could bully their colleagues during grueling all-nighters), the notion that these votes represent anything even remotely resembling student consensus is laughable.

The BDSers demonstrate their own understanding of this lack of broad support whenever they try to sneak their measures in through the back door (as they did at UC Riverside in March).  For whenever their measures are exposed to the light of day, they tend to be voted down or reversed (as they were at Riverside which threw out their earlier divestment vote a month later in open debate).

And one need only look at Berkeley’s latest “Yes” vote to see how Pyrrhic even a non-backdoor victory is for the BDSers.  For in order to get their vote passed, the local Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) group had to basically throw the BDS movement under the bus, insisting that their motion had absolutely nothing to do with the international organization which calls for the very things students were being asked to vote for.  And even this peculiar vote was challenged for being taken against student government rules (which led to it being watered down still further).   Making matters stranger still is this story of a student leader’s attempt to blackmail the President of the Student Senate, offering to drop a lawsuit against him if he chose not to veto the divestment measure (as the previous Student Senate President had done in 2010).

To some of us, that last story mostly raises questions about the nature of a UC student government that seems to spend so much time suing, prosecuting and impeaching its members rather than organizing the next sock hop or condom drive.  But what is unimpeachable is that statements made by a body that behaves in such undemocratic ways is hardly in a position to cast moral aspersions on the Jewish state that anyone else needs to take seriously (given that they are neither a representation of student opinion, nor the result of just and thoughtful deliberation).

Fortunately, the BDSers themselves have taught us again and again how to best deal with student government resolutions of this type.  For year after year, in student council after student council, divestment resolutions have been voted down again and again.  And each and every one of these votes was immediately ignored by the boycotters who refused to take them as representing student opinion against their cause, or the final word on the issue.

So if Students for Justice in Palestine are allowed to embrace the notion that votes rejecting their opinions carry no weight and have no meaning, why shouldn’t the rest of us follow their lead and do the same?  

One comment on “Univ. of California as a case study in the impotence of the Divestment ‘movement’

  1. Somehow contradictorial
    http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/how-uc-berkeley-killed-bds/
    “At Berkeley, astute student leaders recognized BDS as the true author of the bill and refused to pass it unless the resolution explicitly denounced that movement.
    And so it came to pass that radical anti-Israel students, at Berkeley of all places, were forced to insert into their bill, at five different places, language saying the resolution “does not support Omar Barghouti, the leader of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS), and his end goal of a one-state solution that would replace the state of Israel.”
    Anyway they passed it, under these peculiar conditions, didn`t they?

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