Letter: The BDS movement is about justice for Palestine

RE: SFUO’s support of BDS is disriminatory and harmful, Nov. 23-29

Earlier this month, the Israeli Awareness Committee (IAC), a Zionist campus group, blocked a Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) resolution presented by the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO). The IAC is literally a pro-Israel lobby group; it refers to itself as “Israel’s voice on campus,” and it works alongside the Israeli Embassy and others to promote the Israeli government to students, and to build support for the government’s actions.

The BDS movement, on the other hand, is a call to action from Palestinians who seek justice, equality and self-determination. It is a global campaign which uses targeted, non-violent measures against companies with ties to the Israeli government, military and illegal settlements, until such a time that Israel complies with international law. Its specific and only purpose is to challenge the ongoing racist policies of the Israeli government, which discriminate against people based on their ethno-religious identity.

When the IAC claims that BDS is racist, they are turning reality on its head. The IAC’s claim that BDS is anti-Semitic is false and defamatory, and it is intended to silence Palestinian students as well as those who stand in solidarity with their cause. This includes Jewish students on campus whose Jewish identities are centered on doing justice and tikkun olam, or “repairing the world.”

The IAC’s depiction of itself as the voice of all Jewish students creates a monolithic narrative of Jewishness, which conflates Judaism and Zionism. Zionism is a political ideology which advocates for Israel to remain an exclusionary society, one that places the maintenance of ethno-nationalism over the freedom and basic rights of Palestinians.

As white supremacy continues to grow in North America, we need to support and listen to marginalized communities and oppose all forms of racism, including Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, anti-Arab, anti-Indigenous, and anti-Black racism. Portraying the struggle for liberation in Israel-Palestine as anti-Semitic obscures the rise of real anti-Semitism on the American and Canadian right, as well as the basis of solidarity with communities who face systemic oppression.

Fundamentally, the BDS movement opposes racism and settler-colonialism. As Canadians living in a parallel settler-colonial society to that of Israel-Palestine, we need to acknowledge and oppose these colonial processes here and abroad. (Both Carleton University and the University of Ottawa are located on stolen Algonquin land.)

The IAC wants you to believe that BDS promotes further division between Israelis and Palestinians. This could not be further from the truth, as BDS brings together a growing movement of diverse people who care about human rights, including Israelis and Palestinians, who can no longer wait for freedom. BDS is about tearing down walls—literally, in the case of the illegal apartheid wall that digs deep into the West Bank fracturing Palestinians from their families and their land.

After all, what is more divisive than apartheid?

The IAC does not speak for me, just as it does not speak for many other non-Zionist and anti-Zionist Jews in Ottawa.