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June 6, 2012 1

Troubling BDS News on Campus?

Two devel­op­ments regard­ing boy­cott and divest­ment activ­ity on col­lege cam­puses hit the news this week. The first is that the stu­dent sen­ate at Ari­zona State Uni­ver­sity passed a res­o­lu­tion sup­port­ing divest­ment from a vari­ety of cor­po­ra­tions that the pro­po­nents claim are “com­plicit in human rights abuses in the occu­pied Pales­tin­ian Ter­ri­to­ries and Sudan.” The sec­ond is that a student-run café at Ever­green State Col­lege in Wash­ing­ton State, The Flam­ing Egg­plant Café, voted to boy­cott Israeli products.

While these announce­ments tend to cause rejoic­ing in the anti-Israel com­mu­nity, it is some­times best to take stock of the real impli­ca­tions of these devel­op­ments and con­sider them in their proper context.

In the case of Ever­green, it is not clear that the store pre­vi­ously car­ried Israeli prod­ucts and its deci­sion then to “boy­cott Israeli prod­ucts” might be heavy on announce­ment and light on actual prod­uct changes. Sim­i­larly, there is no evi­dence that Ari­zona State Uni­ver­sity has invest­ments in any of the com­pa­nies that were cited in the res­o­lu­tion. If the uni­ver­sity doesn’t, the res­o­lu­tion is ren­dered wholly irrelevant.

But even if the uni­ver­sity is invested in some of these com­pa­nies (which included, among oth­ers, Boe­ing, Cater­pil­lar, Motorola and United Tech­nolo­gies), the res­o­lu­tion is worded so blandly that it doesn’t seem like it has any bind­ing author­ity. The res­o­lu­tion pro­claims, “LET IT BE RESOLVED that Ari­zona State Uni­ver­sity Under­grad­u­ate Stu­dent Gov­ern­ment sup­ports on-campus divest­ment from…” [empha­sis added] It doesn’t actu­ally call on the uni­ver­sity to divest.

It is not likely that these recent devel­op­ments in the boy­cott and divest­ment cam­paign on cam­pus will have any con­crete impact. What is unfor­tu­nate, how­ever, is that they have the poten­tial to iso­late pro-Israel stu­dents and fur­ther cor­rode the atmos­phere on these campuses.