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Independent Jewish Voices: UBC students should support BDS

UBC students should vote to support BDS (the campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions to end Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories and oppression of Palestinian people).  It is the most powerful thing we in Canada can do at this time to help all those in both Palestine and Israel who are non-violently working for a just solution to their conflict.

How do you persuade a powerful institution to change its ways?  Arguments and protest are essential but often ineffective.  Violence also is very often ineffective and sometimes immoral.  Nonviolent economic boycott is a legitimate means of persuasion and has been effective.  Economic boycott was a factor in ending South African apartheid, in the American Civil Rights movement and many other struggles.  In 1977, American labour unions launched a successful national boycott of Coors beer because of the company’s anti-gay, anti-minority policies.  Hundreds of restaurants and bars refused to serve it, and actor Paul Newman declared that he was switching to Budweiser.  Coors changed.  Many Americans refused to buy table grapes for years in support of César Chávez’s United Farmworkers until the farm workers won their basic rights.  Economic pressure isn’t an enemy of free expression; it’s a form of free expression – one that individual citizens and organizations can exercise when, as in this case, their governments refuse to act properly.

BDS does not pose any existential threat to the State of Israel; but, it is a serious challenge to Israel’s system of oppression of the Palestinian people, the real cause of Israel’s growing worldwide isolation.  In fact, BDS isn’t against Israel, but is for Israel.  Given the extreme power imbalance between Israel and the Palestinians and the deeply entrenched position with Israeli politics of the settlers and their supporters, external pressure on Israel is necessary to influence a just settlement for Israel’s sake as well as for the Palestinians’. In addition to pressuring Israel, peaceful global boycotts demonstrate widespread support for peaceful forces for resistance within inside Palestine.  Many Israelis, perhaps most famously Professor Neve Gordon of Ben Gurion University, have publicly said they have no hope that their own government will do anything at all to end its oppression of the Palestinians without significant pressure from people around the world.  He and other Israelis call for international support for BDS as a way to support positive, non-violent change for everyone in the region.

Why the settlements?  In addition to their illegal status, blatantly stealing land, destroying homes and communities, imposing strict limits on the movement of people and goods, the theft of water and other resources, the near-pervasive network of Israeli settlements has essentially destroyed the possibility of a two-state solution with a viable Palestinian state next to the Jewish state.

Independent Jewish Voices is an organization of proud, determined Canadian Jews who share a commitment to social justice and the universal applicability of human rights.  We are part of the international movement in solidarity with the Palestinian struggle for self-determination.  Opinion within the Jewish population of this country is not reflected by the organizations that claim to represent Canadian Jews.  We wholeheartedly support the 2005 call by over 170 Palestinian civil organizations – labour unions, women’s groups, professional associations, student organizations, political parties, and more – to boycott, divest and sanction until Israel upholds fundamental precepts of international law and human rights.  The goal of the BDS campaign is for Israel to conform with widely accepted standards of treatment for the population under its control.  When that is achieved, the boycott will end.

We urge the student body at UBC to join with dozens of other universities around the world in responding positively to this call.


For more information:

Rabbi David Mivasair
(604) 781-7839

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