To the Editor:
Earlier this month, Cornell Students for Justice in Palestine announced a Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign against Israel. The campaign aims to divest Cornell’s endowment from companies they allege are responsible for human rights violations against Palestinians. A wave of these campaigns has spread to campuses across the country, and they sow nothing but discord and fear in their wake. We, the undersigned members of the Cornell community, stand squarely against this campaign because it is antithetical to the values Cornellians hold dear.
BDS Prevents Thoughtful Dialogue on Campus
The goal of the BDS movement is to utilize economic pressure against Israel as a mechanism to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Supporters see Israel as the sole aggressor and obstacle toward a solution. Those who have dedicated time to studying the conflict understand that it is a complex and sensitive regional conflict in which there are many actors and perspectives. By assigning all blame to one party, BDS ignores the efforts Israel has made toward a peaceful solution including numerous offers to Palestinians to have their own state. These offers have been rejected by Arab leaders. This one-sided view shuts down any thoughtful dialogue on the role all sides must play to end this conflict.
BDS Creates Division on our Campus
During a 2014 BDS campaign, BDS activists at Cornell targeted their pro-Israel classmates for their identities and beliefs. BDS activists yelled, “fuck you Zionist scums” and “I will fucking slap you” at fellow students. This is not the type of conversation that is productive on our campus. And in 2017, Cornell SJP disrupted a campus celebration of Israel’s Independence Day with a “die-in,” accusing students of celebrating genocide. While they laid dead, pro-Israel students sang songs of peace around them. In this year’s campaign, we once again fear that thoughtful and respectful dialogue on this issue will be stifled by hateful rhetoric.
We are concerned that language being used in this campaign may devolve into the targeting of Jews and the Jewish community on this campus, as it has on others. Cornell SJP has likened Zionist ideology to white supremacy and Nazism. That is a dangerous fallacy, designed to isolate the Jewish community and link us to the same hateful movement that targets Jews in attacks like the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting. This kind of rhetoric creates an environment in which Jewish students feel unsafe and unwelcome on campus.
BDS Cannot Achieve a Peaceful Resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
BDS is often described as a non-violent means to bring about peace in the Middle East. Yet, in their letter to President Pollack, Cornell SJP makes no mention of peace. This is because BDS promotes conflict by isolating one side and brewing anger and disruption among the parties. True peace can only be achieved when Israelis and Palestinians establish enough mutual respect to directly negotiate with one another. BDS hinders the possibility for peace by impeding the confidence-building process and encouraging both sides to harden their positions.
BDS is Part of the Larger Goal to Strip Jewish People of the Right to Self-determination
Back in November, a member of Cornell SJP verified the claim made in guest column arguing that “Cornell SJP effectively endorses the destruction of Israel as a Jewish State.” The demands of the current BDS campaign are designed to meet that directive.
We find this goal severely troubling. Though we may disagree with some Israeli governmental policy, the Jewish people’s right to have a state of their own in their historic homeland is not up for debate. Jews unquestionably have deep religious, historical and cultural connections to the land of Israel. As per the U.S. Department of State, attempts to “deny the Jewish people their right to self-determination” qualify as anti-Semitism. As Cornellians, we cannot and will not tolerate anti-Semitism in any form.
BDS limits thoughtful dialogue on complex issues, hinders prospects for peace, and sows division and tension on our campus. For these reasons, Cornell’s BDS resolution must be voted down. We call upon Cornell SJP to join us in positive dialogue on campus and endorse a two-state solution, so Israelis and Palestinians can live side-by-side in secure and peaceful coexistence.
Jay Sirot ’19
Jacob Spiegel ’21
Adam Shapiro ’20
Shir Kidron ’19
Emily Flyer ’20
Salvatore LoBiondo III ’20
Sam Wolf ’20