Around this time a year ago, the Daily, as well as many other publications throughout the country, covered the University of Michigan Central Student Government’s first-ever Ethics Committee investigation. It was a probe to determine if I, an elected member of CSG at the time, was guilty of committing an unprecedented ethical violation because of my public and civil condemnation of an anti-Israel apartheid wall erected on campus.
Eventually, I was vindicated of any wrongdoing after a long, stressful process that included numerous threats and harassments by classmates and online trolls that went on for weeks after the investigation ended. Because of this horrifically negative experience and the unwanted attention paid to me in both the CSG weekly agenda and in The Michigan Daily, I have refrained from writing about my experience or matters pertinent to this subject. Today, I no longer feel I can remain silent.
On the night of Tuesday, Nov. 15, CSG will vote on a measure dealing with the proposed imposition of boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel, and Israel alone. This legislation is being brought forth by the same student organization that led the failed effort demanding my removal from the assembly, Students Allied for Freedom and Equality. This political organization has brought forth what I believe to be immoral legislation. The resolution is not an accurate representation of the University student population’s views on human rights violations, but is merely packaged and presented as such. In reality, it is a position offering only one narrative in the incredibly complex Arab-Israeli conflict, chock-full of regressive solutions that will only impede dialogue and aggravate tensions.
It has been a difficult few weeks and months leading up to the proposition of this boycott declaration. Following the 2016 election cycle, there has been a deplorable uptick in Islamophobia, anti-Semitism and other hateful rhetoric that brings toxicity to this campus and across our nation. However, the University’s student government is attempting to place all the blame for a continuing Israeli presence in the West Bank on Israel, without any acknowledgement of Palestinian leadership’s rejection of Israeli peace proposals. Had they been considered, these proposals would have brought an end to the alleged occupation on at least three separate occasions (1967, 2001 and 2007). For CSG to impose a boycott on the nation state of the Jewish people at this juncture in history, without any suggestion of boycotting those who have rejected peace time and again, is immoral and a targeted attack on the Jewish people.
Israel holds a special place in my heart as the ancestral homeland of my long-displaced, nomadic people. All Jews share this historical connection to the land of Israel. But even if we set history and the well-documented, unbroken 3,000-year-old Jewish presence in the land of Israel aside, Israel today is a beacon of liberalism, freedom and democracy.
Arab citizens in Israel, both men and women, have rights unparalleled to most places in the world. They serve in the national legislature, the Supreme Court, in academia, business, medicine, law and in virtually every other professional sphere. Israel’s record on rights for women and LGBTQ people is among the most progressive in the world. The nation’s ability to keep civilian casualties low throughout its history, despite wars with enemies who hide their soldiers behind their citizenry, is also unprecedented. And most critically, any Arab or other citizen of Israel is free to take up any grievance he or she has with his or her government or larger society in the courts or in the international media, because the right to access the courts and speech are unabridged in Israel. These are liberties that are completely unheard of in the rest of the Middle East and across much of the world at large. When a boycott movement is targeted exclusively at the world’s sole Jewish nation, a nation with an incomparable commitment to the protection of human rights, one must consider the prospect of bigotry at play.
Equally important, a boycott of Israel would irrevocably damage the lives of Palestinian workers who rely on Israeli firms for economic sustenance (in the West Bank and in Israel proper). It would damage the lives of all citizens across the globe who enjoy the benefits of Israeli technological and medical innovation. And it would damage the lives of Muslims, Christians and Jews who rely on the state of Israel for protection from radical terrorist groups seeking as much bloodshed as possible.
Now is not the time to focus our attention away from what is happening on our campus, in our country and in other corners of the world where real injustice, bigotry and even genocide is occurring. Now is not the time to overemphasize flaws and promulgate lies about the world’s sole Jewish nation. Now is not the time to propel a BDS movement endorsed by terrorist sympathizers, Holocaust deniers and noted bigots like David Duke, former Ku Klux Klan imperial wizard, according to The Algemeiner and Israel National News, respectively. Now is not the time for capitulation to clear double standards. Now is not the time for further division within our deeply fractured nation and campus. Now is not the time for BDS.
Jesse Arm is an LSA junior.