At the recent Stand With Us conference (http://www.standwithus.com) it became obvious that the anti-Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement is becoming empowered. California Assemblyman Travis Allen (R-Huntington Beach) has been on the forefront of pushing legislation to counter the BDS movement, which is a global campaign attempting to increase economic and political pressure on Israel.
Allen first introduced legislation in January, but has since decided to co-author in a bi-partisan manner, another bill, AB 2844, to ensure its passing. In its current form the bill requires that California will not contract with any entity that officially boycotts the State of Israel, calling Israel a “vital ally and only democracy in the Middle East.” Every 180 days the list is updated.
California should join other states that have considered such legislation. Currently there are seven states that passed bills, seven pending, of which five of those are highly likely to pass. AB 2844 has been approved by two committees and will shortly be up before a third, after which it will go to the floor for a general vote. Unfortunately as it moves through committees some will try to change the language from its original form. The Democrats do not have a good track record nationally, considering many did not see the Iran Nuclear Deal as a problem, so will this BDS bill be watered down?
“Republican support will be contingent on it remaining a strong bill with clear language,” Allen said. “It is important that all members of the Legislature need to work together to ensure the bill is not unduly complicated or watered downed through the process. The resulting law must be concise and effective.”
He wants to remind Californians, “Israel has a level of freedom not enjoyed by surrounding countries in the Middle East. When the proponents of boycotting Israel talk about freedom of equality and tolerance they should be asked if the same standard is applied to other countries around the world. I introduced the bill to show that California values its allies and our taxpayers do not want to support prejudice with their tax dollars. California has a closeness with Israel: over two billion dollars in trade, over 1500 companies do business in Israel, and Governor Brown signed a memorandum of understanding in 2014 to increase collaboration and trade with Israel.”
More and more, opponents of BDS are putting the movement on the defensive. People are recognizing that one of the important battlefields is the terrain of college campuses.
Anthony Berteaux, a junior at San Diego State University, told in an op-ed how he blindly supported the BDS movement on campus. “I was one of them. I discussed my support of BDS on the radio and was fully invested in BDS. I was anti-Israel in the name of social justice and equality.” He changed his position after seeing a picture displaying the SDSU logo with the headline ”Ethnic cleansing starts here.”
In an article he explained his change in opinion; “I condemned them (BDS) for reducing Israel to a caricature specific to their narrative. I condemned them for marginalizing students on our campus. In just two days after publishing, I received over 30 messages, calling for my resignation from the paper, calling me a baby killer, a racist apartheid supporter, and other hateful slurs I can’t mention right now. I have been threatened on campus and off.”
Molly, a senior at Stanford University, is attempting to pass a resolution on campus against anti-Semitism. She sees herself as a student advocate and does not believe in a “tepid response. I did not have the support of the Hillel Director, and was taken back. She works in an organization that should help make the lives of Jewish students better. I was actually inspired by her response, because she forced me to stand up for what I believe. There is no strong leadership on campus that says anti-Semitism is not OK so we need to stand up for ourselves. I warn my fellow students who are not Jewish, anti-Semitism, which is also anti-Zionism, is a canary in a coalmine. The first piece of discrimination starts with the Jewish people and goes forward to others.”
Tatiana, a sophomore student at the University of Houston, officially protested an event held by extremist groups. Her goal was to have a statement from the University that they will fight anti-Semitism. The groups were trying to raise funds for Rasmea Yousef Odeh’s defense. She was convicted in an Israeli court for her involvement of exploding a bomb in 1969 that killed two Hebrew University students. Released 10 years later in a prisoner swap, she eventually ended up in the U.S. When requesting citizenship in 2004, she lied on her application, answering “no” when asked if she was ever charged, convicted or imprisoned. In November 2014 a federal jury found her guilty of illegally obtaining naturalization. She is now appealing the decision.
In trying to get an official response, Tatiana feels “I have gotten the run around where one administrator kicks the can to someone else. What if a Muslim student complained of white students holding a fundraiser for the shooting of three Muslims in South Carolina? I am sure we would have been stopped. In fact, the brother of one of those killed lives in Houston. It is constantly one-sided. When Israeli soldiers came to speak on campus they were compared to Bin Laden. Something should be done.”
Shir, a former Israeli intelligence soldier, told of how she was disrespected when trying to speak at the University of Florida. “Their goal is to erase the state of Israel. They called me a baby killer. I hope the opponents of BDS become active and are not afraid to fight for what is right. I truly believe that many of those Americans who protest don’t know the facts, while believing random lies.”
Another student, who distanced themselves from the dark side, voting not to endorse the BDS movement against Israel, is Milan Chatterjee, President of UCLA’s Graduate Students Association. Because of his actions he faces impeachment and is accused by the ACLU as well as Palestine Legal of impeding free speech. Where is UCLA’s Chancellor Gene Block, who promised in an open letter last year that “UCLA will not be defined by intolerance. We will strive to create a community that will honor the dignity of all its members even if we struggle with one another’s ideas. We will strive to create a community in which all of us can fully take part in campus life and express our views and identities, safe from intimidation, threat or harm. Let us all work together to do the good work of creating that community”?
Professor Alan Dershowitz noted, “Free speech for me, but not for thee.” But the supporters of BDS are going beyond free speech with intimidation and political/legal harassment. During this Passover people should reflect and applaud those who speak out and take action to secure the victory of truth. Those mentioned in the above article need to be supported and admired for standing up to injustice with strength and fortitude.