Daily Israel Report

Op-Ed: BDS, DePaul U. and Hypocrisy

On American campuses there are no demonstrations against Boko Haram, but there are calls for boycotts, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) against Israel.
Published: Saturday, May 31, 2014 10:21 PM


After months of campaigning, the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement at Chicago’s DePaul University held a referendum on the issue. 

Only a small fraction of DePaul students actually voted and the resolution passed by a small margin, saying less about sentiment on campus than the passion of the small groups of students involved.

It was a Pyrrhic victory.  As the campaigners know, BDS is illegal under federal law.

BDS, of course, is not about BDS but about recasting the Arab/ Israeli conflict as a civil rights issue, and intimidating those students who are pro-Israel.

For months, the BDS advocates were out in force in the student union, and as Breitbart’s Paul Miller documented, they more than succeeded in making Jewish students feel unwelcome, uncomfortable, and intimidated.

DePaul has always been welcoming to Jewish students. Even back in my day, Northwestern University still had a quota on Jewish students.  DePaul did not. 


Ask nearly any proponent of BDS, if they desire a two-state solution, you will find that you have asked a difficult question.
When two of my former high school classmates showed up for class at DePaul University on the Jewish Day of Atonement, a priest practically chased them back to the synagogue, admonishing them that it was behavior he expected them never to repeat.  Both went on to become lawyers, by way of DePaul College of Law.  A half-century later, they were still telling the story of the priest who sent them to Yom Kippur services.

So, I admit a certain sadness as I watched Miller’s interviews with Jewish students. Nicholas Hahn III, writing in the Chicago Tribune, summarized it best.  DePaul had become too tolerant of bullies to the detriment of both Jewish and Muslim students.

While the pro-Palestinian students were militating for boycotting Israel, in Kenya, an Israeli company was making news by using a seven dollar USB device to refurbish old computers, bringing computing to impoverished children. Through some miracle that defies the imagination, you simply plug the device in and it produces a new operating system, while eliminating the old.

Across the continent in Nigeria, there was a different kind of news. Nearly three hundred, mostly Christian, school girls were kidnapped to be sold into slavery by the Islamist group Boko Haram

On American campuses there are no demonstrations against Boko Haram, but there are calls for boycotts, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) against Israel.

Ironically, the boycotters are organizing by using text messaging, smart phones, and computers that use mobile computing chips that have been created and developed in Israel. If they really wanted to boycott, Israel they might start by getting rid of their electronic gadgets that connect to the Internet. 

From the blue light treatment for acne to the new, non-invasive test for breast cancer to hundreds of medical devices and drugs, the boycotters cannot escape the impact of Israeli innovation on their daily lives.  And as these pubescent advocates of boycott later find aging parents on their hands, they will encounter the irony that the most promising treatment in the pipeline for Alzheimer’s comes from an Israeli scientist.

Israeli science and technology touches all of us daily.  Israel has the third largest number of companies on the Nasdaq stock exchange. At some point, most of us will have to take a pill manufactured by Teva.  Indeed, as I write, news of the FDA’s approval of Teva’s Mallinckrodt time-release pain drug has just come across the wires. 

Avoiding an Israeli product in or technological influence on our daily lives is only slightly less difficult than avoiding the latest news story of a sensational act of misogyny in the Arab or Islamic world.  

Few of the students militating against Israel seem to know that the reason that Boko Haram can sell Christian girls into slavery is that Muslim-controlled black slavery still flourishes in parts of Africa.

Despite the best efforts of the British to outlaw slavery in Nigeria, black slavery was legal there as late as 1936.  Today, ten to twenty per cent of the black people in neighboring Mauritania are slaves, and that atrocious business is still dominated by Muslims.

By creating an asymmetric focus on Israel, as if peace between Arabs and Jews was totally a result of Jewish intransigence, attention is diverted from the real problems of the Middle East: the rise of religious intolerance, the promulgation of slavery, the rejection of modernity, and the ethnic cleansing of the Christian community.

Who is to blame for the non-existence of a Palestinian state?  Few of the students who voted for BDS know that there never was a Palestinian state.  There was the British Mandate of Palestine in the area of the Ottoman Empire known as Southern Syria.

The modern-day Palestinian Arabs, a people created in the 1960s by the Egyptian, Yasser Arafat, have no continuity to the Philistines of old, for whom the Romans named the area as an insult to the Jews.

Going back to 1939, the Arabs have consistently and vociferously rejected the creation of a Palestinian state, if it also meant the creation of a Jewish state. The Palestinian Arabs do not have a state because their leadership prefers the status quo to two states, one Jewish and one Muslim, living side-by-side and both embracing peace.

Ask nearly any proponent of BDS, if they desire a two-state solution, you will find that you have asked a difficult question. 

But if BDS proponents are going to be true to their ideology, they should follow the exhortation of the Iran Grand Ayatollah Ali Khameini, who urged Muslims not to just boycott Israel but to boycott anything created by Jews.  Frankly, I find that a succulent idea. 

So let the advocates of BDS set the example by throwing away any device that links to the Internet.  Let them also not avail themselves of all the advances in medicine and science that won Jews over one hundred Nobel prizes. From Insulin to the Polio vaccine, let them persist in their boycott.

As for universities, there is a difference between engaging in the free marketplace of ideas and using agitprop to bully people.  Right now, on too many campuses, BDS is gone beyond advocacy to physical harassment and intimidation. 

Let universities, like DePaul, secure in their own traditions, say yes to the free exchange of ideas and no to physical intimidation.  Christian monks saved Western civilization for the world.  Now is not the time to compromise that legacy by failing to recognize the difference between civilization and barbarism.

Abraham H. Miller is an emeritus professor of political science, University of Cincinnati.  He also served on the faculty of the University of California, Davis and the University of Illinois, Urbana.  He is a native of Chicago.