As someone who cares deeply about peace, justice and human rights in the Middle East, I am very concerned about recent events on campus promoting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement (BDS) against Israel.
Although BDS brands itself as a nonviolent “social movement” promoting human rights, it spreads propaganda with the aim of ending Israel’s existence as the democratic state of the Jewish people.
Self-determination is a universal human right. By attempting to undermine Jewish self-determination, BDS is promoting a fundamentally discriminatory, anti-peace agenda.
If we allow the movement to continue unchallenged, this movement will harm our community in the service of an unjust cause. BDS deserves our condemnation as UF students, not our complicity or respect.
BDS threatens what hope remains for peace between Palestinians and Israelis.
Leading BDS activists have made their purpose clear in their public statements.
According to As’ad Abukhalil, a political science professor at California State University, Stanislaus, “the real aim of BDS is to bring down the state of Israel.”
Similarly, Omar Barghouti, the founding committee member of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, stated unequivocally that “we (supporters of BDS) oppose a Jewish state in any part of Palestine.”
Ahmed Moor, a Palestinian-American political commentator, said, “BDS does mean the end of the Jewish state.”
BDS supporters chant “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.”
The extremism of this slogan reveals there is no desire for peace and unity.
The “river” the slogan refers to is the Jordan River, and the “sea” is the Mediterranean Sea. Israel sits between these bodies of water.
Supporters of BDS are not interested in a peaceful coexistence between an Israeli state and a Palestinian state. Instead, they seek the replacement of Israel with a single, Arab-majority Palestinian state.
The movement singles out Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East, as it simultaneously disregards the world’s worst human rights violators, including the terrorist organization Hamas.
BDS has been widely condemned for pushing boycotts of Israeli academia, including by our administration and Student Government because such actions threaten academic freedom and constitute discrimination based on national origin.
Contributing to the BDS movement in any way violates the most basic principles of our university — equal rights, social justice, academic freedom and the free exchange of ideas.
Whether they intend to, those who support BDS are undermining academic freedom on campus and damaging efforts to bring peace in the Middle East.
We should encourage both sides to make hard choices in negotiations, rather than pushing for Israel’s elimination.
We should uphold justice and human rights for all, rather than promoting one side at the expense of the other.
As UF students, we should stand up to the BDS movement’s hate and work toward a future of mutual recognition and mutual respect between Israelis, Palestinians and all people in the Middle East.
Laura Kaler is a UF sport-management senior.
[A version of this story ran on page 7 on 10/3/2014]