How to stop BDS on campus

When you go visit a college, ask to meet with the admissions staff, the Hillel director, the dean in charge of student affairs, or any other university official you can access.

May 6, 2015 22:45
Anti-Israel protest

Protesters call for boycott of Israel [file]. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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My sister is a food activist. When she went “free range,” for example, she would remark to our waitress, “I’m interested in your chicken cacciatore.” The waitress, of course, would say, “Oh, that’s one of my favorites!” and would go on and on, placing many impressive, but unfamiliar adjectives in front of recognizable words like “tomato.” My sister would reply, “Oh, that’s nice.

But what I’m really interested in is, was the chicken that I’ll be eating allowed to roam around the coop? Was she given healthy food and treated kindly? Was she happy during her life?” The waitress would stare back at her and mumble something about not being sure, but she could check with the chef.

The next year, it was live food. My sister would ask about the artichoke dip. “Is it made with raw cheese?” The waitress would assure her that the chef baked the appetizer thoroughly and that she’d bring it out piping hot. My sister would ask, “No, I mean, did the farmer heat the cheese and kill all the good enzymes we need to better digest the cheese?” The waitress would agree to “go check.”

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Then came the year my sister went paleo. Brilliant move! I mean, how could you not lose weight when your main food source is extinct? But it turns out that paleo-tarians don’t just eat nuts and berries, they also follow a gluten-free diet.

So when my sister sat down at our traditional Italian restaurant, the waitress was ready, whipping out an elegant gluten-free menu replete with many impressive but unfamiliar adjectives.

I was surprised. How on earth did that happen? Very simple: my sister was not the only person asking the waitress such questions. Hundreds, thousands, maybe even hundreds of thousands of people were asking their servers and their grocery store staff this same question. And it worked. The market responded.

So, I’m wondering why we can’t use this same approach to grind the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement to a halt? Here are three steps that may prove highly effective, if we each can agree to act on them.

Step 1: Parents of prospective college students should meet with college personnel and inquire about the “campus environment.”

When you go visit a college, ask to meet with the admissions staff, the Hillel director, the dean in charge of student affairs, or any other university official you can access.

Ask questions like: • Has your student government voted on a BDS resolution? What did they decide? • Do you have a SJP (Students for Justice in Palestine) group on campus? • Do you have any other group that advocates boycotting Israel, targets Jewish students or student groups, or supports current or former terrorists? • Are your Middle East Studies professors welcoming to Jewish and other pro-Israeli students, or do they corner them and subject them to a host accusations? • What incidents have occurred on campus in the past two or three years that might give me cause for concern? What incidents would reassure me? • What steps is the administration taking to combat anti-Semitism and efforts to demonize, delegitimize and apply a double standard to the State of Israel? Step 2: Alumni should meet with college personnel and inquire about programs and policies.

Before you make your next payment to the alumni fund, call and speak to the alumni director and any dean you can get a hold of. Ask questions similar to the above. If you give to the general fund, ask questions like: • Will my money be going to support a SJP group on campus or current and former terrorists? • Will my money be used to underwrite the cost of lecturers who demonize, delegitimize and apply a double standard to the State of Israel? • How can you use my money to support policies that will discourage the rising anti-Semitism on college campuses? • Would you contact me if you would like support for a speaker who will present a pro-Israel perspective? Also, talk to your fellow Jewish alumni and encourage them to do the same.

Step 3: A tech-savvy activist group should create an “Amy’s List,” “Bed Bug Registry” or “Rate My Professor” for universities and campuses.

Colleges and universities should be held responsible and/or credited for their policies and actions.

However, Jewish and pro-Israel campus organizations understandably don’t want to endanger their relationship with the administration by reporting incidents that may reflect badly on the institution.

After all, they need to work with the administration to achieve their goals.

So, a tech-savvy activist group should get together – say on Facebook – to form a group that brainstorms the formation of an “Amy’s List” for colleges and universities. There is already a Facebook page called “BDS = Buy, Defend, and Support Israel,” and so many other pro-Israel groups exist.

All we need is a few good pro-Israel activists to kick things off.

Then parents of prospective students, alumni and students can all report to the site. Administrators of the colleges can report on what steps they’ve taken to combat any incident or action. They can clarify events that have been misinterpreted – or not.

But here’s the catch: if only one person asks about the happiness of the chicken cacciatore, nobody will listen. But if we all start asking, maybe BDS will go the way of the mammoth.

The author is an American-Israeli writer and editor in the fields of political science, history, and information technology and a contributor to The Hill.

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