GUEST ROOM | Beyond BDS: Engaging in Dialogue on Israel and Palestine

Cornell is a tough place. Each semester often feels increasingly more trying. Last semester was particularly difficult because of three little letters: BDS, which stand for the movement to Boycott, Divest and Sanction Israel, a country to which many Cornellians, including myself, feel deeply connected. For those new to campus, the “divestment” campaign that was brought to the Student Assembly claimed to start conversations about the century-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a worthwhile goal that I share. Instead, after many twists and turns last semester, including President Martha Pollack’s principled rejection of BDS and the paralysis of student government for most of the semester, BDS caused a deep rift in the campus culture and was defeated.

GUEST ROOM | Dialogue Beyond BDS

Corrections appended. With the failure of the BDS resolution before the Student Assembly this past Thursday, Cornell Hillel and Cornellians for Israel, both of which strongly opposed the measure, declared a victory for peace. However, peace and dialogue have not won out just yet. If Hillel and CFI are serious about promoting human rights of Palestinians and Israelis, they must walk the walk. If Hillel cares about dialogue, it should strive to bring in Palestinian speakers as well as Israeli critics of the occupation of Palestinian land such as Breaking the Silence, a group of Israel Defense Forces veterans that candidly discusses military activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and B’tselem, a human rights organization dedicated to ending the occupation.

Student Assembly Votes Against Resolution on Divestment Movement

Student Assembly members voted Thursday to reject Resolution 36, which would “urge” Cornell to divest from companies “profiting from the occupation of Palestine and human rights violations.” The vote included 13 no, 14 yes and one abstention from S.A. members, as well as two votes by the community members that were against the resolution.

GUEST ROOM | A Rocket Hit My House. Now BDS Wants Me Out.

In January 2009, a long-range missile from Gaza was fired into Israel. This has been a common occurrence ever since Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza in 2005. As a child, I was taught at school to immediately run to a bomb shelter if sirens go off, so I did that. I was home alone in my room and quickly ran to the shelter we had in our house. It was 9:30 a.m. Normally, I would stay in the shelter and wait for the sirens to stop, as rockets rarely reached my town of Gedera.

GUEST ROOM | ‘Singling Out’ President Pollack’s Divestment Confusion

In President Pollack’s much-publicized statement rejecting Students for Justice in Palestine’s proposed divestment measures against Israeli occupation, Cornell’s leader claimed that such action would “unfairly single out one country in the world for sanction, when there are many countries around the world whose governments’ policies may be viewed as controversial.” In case she has forgotten, we would like to remind her of the other countries whose human rights violations have been brought to her attention by anti-imperialist members of the campus community. In May 2017, Pollack’s administration declined to take action to utilize Cornell’s purchasing power to help curb militia violence in the Congo in accordance with the demands of the global “conflict-free” movement. A resolution that earned the near-unanimous support from the Student Assembly was unilaterally dismissed, even though the relatively uncontroversial conflict-free campaign provided Cornell with a feasible action plan to directly address the country’s human rights violations. University leadership simply couldn’t be bothered to care about this powerful student-led effort, let alone act on it. The following month, an SA resolution authored by human rights organizers and Native American student leaders asked the University to divest from dirty pipeline projects that violate Indigenous sovereignty and put the future of all peoples at stake.