In late February, student groups at UC San Diego, led by Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), introduced, for the third time, an initiative aimed at divesting university funds from “U.S. companies that profit from violent conflict and occupation.” This year, the divestment call was aimed specifically at General Electric and Northrop Grumman, firms that “produce parts of Apache helicopters used by the Israeli Defense Forces against Palestinians,” with the empty ambition that “by removing investments from companies who assist in perpetuating the violence in the area [supporters would be instrumental in] setting up a forum where peace is achievable.”
Like the two earlier divestment initiatives, the proposal was roundly defeated, this time in a 20-13 vote, stunning its supporters. These divestment campaigns are part of the ongoing effort by some activist members of the academic Left, joined happily by Islamists and other ideological enemies of Israel, to prolong and enhance the demonization–and eventually the elimination–of the Jewish state.
But immediately after the latest divestment bid, a telling, if not unexpected, thing occurred: supporters proclaimed that the initiative had failed because opponents of the resolution were racists, classists, homophobes, sexists, [and] bigots “who pressured the student government representatives to vote down the campaign in a manner that created a “hostile campus climate . . . for students of color and students from underserved and underrepresented communities,” suffering victims who are now “hurt, [and] feel disrespected, silenced, ignored and erased by this University.” So apparently voting against their resolution created a hostile environment and marginalized people of color, among others.
What’s more, as these allegedly victimized students and faculty self-righteously proclaimed in a letter to the UCSD administration, pro-Israel faculty and staff should not have been allowed to speak against the resolution at the meeting, because “using their positions of authority as professors or staff for power and intimidation is not acceptable.”
The language of the whining memo and the divestment resolution itself is revealing. Both are laced with the tired, Marxist, post-colonial vocabulary of a Manichean world view depicting Israel as the brutal oppressor and the Palestinians as innocent Third-World victims.
Nowhere in their accusatory memo did they address the central point of the resolution; that is, whether it had any merit at all, and whether the vote to defeat it was handled transparently and fairly (which it obviously was). Instead, their reaction to losing the vote was to convert themselves into victims who now feel emotionally “uncomfortable” on campus because of the rejection of their ideas. Apparently the only way to render them “comfortable” again would be to revive and pass their resolution. On campuses today, feelings trump ideas.
Of course, Jewish and non-Jewish supporters of Israel, who found the divestment initiative morally defective, might have felt “uncomfortable,” marginalized and intimidated by the recurring and blatant anti-Israel sentiment that has infected the UCSD campus for years. And this hostile climate is not just related to the divestment campaign. It is also the result of such annual events as Justice in Palestine Week, during which Israel is depicted as a colonizing, militaristic, murderous, Nazi-like, brutal occupier of stolen Palestinian land. Is it unreasonable that those who have a different, and more historically accurate, version of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict might take offense at such virulent anti-Israel hate fests on campus such as “Justice In Palestine Week” and wish to answer back?
Anti-Israel students and professors have the right to spew forth any ideologies they wish, but it does not mean that they can do so without being challenged over the content and accuracy of their thoughts. “Free speech does not absolve anyone from professional incompetence,” said Michael Rubin, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute; and those who question divestment petitions, or critique the anti-Israel and anti-American “scholarship” parading on campuses as Middle Eastern Studies. Like many of their fellow academics and activists, they proclaim widely the virtues of open expression, but only for those who utter thoughts they agree with.
Richard L. Cravatts, Professor of Practice at Simmons College and the author of Genocidal Liberalism: The University’s Jihad Against Israel & Jews, is President of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East.