[Editor’s note: This is an abbreviated and edited excerpt of Thomas Elias’s originally submitted column.]
The most contentious issue University of California campuses last year was whether the Board of Regents should divest itself of investments in companies that help supply Israel’s military, specifically General Electric and United Technologies.
The divestment proposal considered by student senates at Berkeley and San Diego campuses was based on claims that Israel has committed war crimes and the two companies aid and abet that by supplying aircraft engines, helicopters, and other military equipment. The margins by which the divestment demands lost were so narrow that this proposal is certain to be back during the next school year.
… [It is important to look at where many of these divestment calls come from on] UC campuses, where residents of Muslim countries make up a large portion of the almost 12,000 foreign students, whose ultra-high out-of-state tuition and fees subsidize the educations of thousands of in-state resident students. Their governments, and their often oil-wealthy parents, also donate additional funds to various campuses.
… Each claim these students regularly make against Israel [need context]. Complaints about the security fence, for instance, ignore the many suicide bombings carried out by Palestinians in the years before the barrier went up and the fact that now there are almost none. [Additionally, the notion that] Israel deprives Palestinians of civil rights ignores the free elections held in the West Bank and Gaza, which most recently produced the radically anti-Israel Hamas-led government of Gaza. It also ignores the fact that Israel’s Arab citizens, all ethnic Palestinians, enjoy the same rights as other Israelis, more civil rights and freedoms than are possessed by any Arab populace in any Arab nation.
The allegations of war crimes during Israel’s most recent incursion into Gaza, claims that Israel deliberately bombed schools and hospitals, ignore the fact – verified by international observers – that Hamas combatants regularly took shelter in such buildings (a war crime), using their occupants as human shields while they fired at Israeli troops. Claims that the incursion itself was illegal under international law consistently ignore thousands of rockets fired from Gaza into Israel during several prior years.
Given these facts, the remarkable thing was that any resolution demanding divestment from companies doing business with Israel could get anywhere. But the political determination of Muslim students at UC campuses gives them on-campus clout out of all proportion to their numbers.
Which means there’s a very good chance these resolutions will pass next year, placing Berkeley or any other UC campus that okays them among the most radically anti-Israel student bodies in the world …
The Muslims and their allies, who include some leftist Jewish students and faculty, claim all this is not anti-Semitism. But the resolution at Berkeley singled out Israel, while ignoring all human rights violations in counties like Iran, Russia, Sudan, China and Rwanda, all among the most egregious violators of human rights on the planet, some of them sites of mass slaughters. If singling out the Jewish state for special condemnation … is not anti-Semitism, it’s hard to see what is.