At schools around the country – Princeton, Ohio State, the University of Oregon, George Mason University – divestment campaigns are rearing their anti-Semitic heads and attempting to deprive students of simple things like scholarship donations and hummus.
Boycott, Divest, Sanction (BDS) campaigns have historically been supported on college campuses by Students for Palestine groups, though their anti-Semitic roots have been much discussed. The Anti-Defamation League calls BDS movements a “global campaign to delegitimize Israel” and refers to many of their activities as directly anti-Semitic, such as their attempts at “denying the Jewish people the universal right of self-determination.”
The latest phase of BDS activity has included targeted campaigns to rid college campuses of the great danger that is Sabra-brand hummus. A petition organized by pro-Palestine students at George Mason University, for example, demanded that the university “cease to stock, offer, and buy the Sabra family of products” because “the offering of such products goes against the conscience of Mason students, whose commitment to justice and humanity compels them to stand against Israeli violations of human rights.”
As of December 29, 2018, the GMU petition had garnered less than 200 signatures, 800 short of their goal.
In response, the GMU Israel Student Association said they hoped the “student body can see the obvious problems with BDS and stand with us and the Jewish community in opposing all anti-Semitic action on campus.”
Many BDS activities on campus can seem trite and unimpactful in the long run, including these attempts to push away Israel-based or Jewish donors or ban certain brands of hummus from campus food establishments. However, what is not lost, is the message these BDS movements are sending to Jewish and Israeli students on campus: they are not welcome, they are not worthy, and they are a crime.
Therefore, it is critical that students who support Israel stand up and say so in the face of these movements. What can students, Jewish and allies alike, do to stand up to anti-Semitism and BDS efforts on their campus? When groups attempt a boycott, organize a “buycott.” Show your school that Sabra hummus is your preferred brand, your only brand. Support Israeli companies, artists, and businesses.
Similarly, it is crucial to let alumni and other supporters know what these movements are attempting to do on your campus. Alumni can be very influential to campus administrations and have been helpful in the past at squelching BDS attempts on campuses around the country.
Bring a pro-Israel speaker to your campus to talk to students about the important role Israel plays in the Middle East and the history of the United States’ relationship with Israel so that your student body is better informed. Ignorance is not bliss when ignorance leads to hatred and the ostracizing of Jewish and pro-Israel students. The BDS movement wants to foster that hatred, and they won’t stop with hummus.
Aryssa is a graduate student at the University of Kentucky, an alumna of the National Journalism Center, and a contributor to the New Guard.