BDS and the CSU: A Story of Selective Outrage

November 21, 2014

This piece was written by our Fellow at Concordia University, Bradley Martin, and originally published at The Concordian. The full piece is reproduced below. 

Vote ‘No’ to the BDS movement on Nov. 25

On its website, the Concordia Student Union (CSU) describes itself as an organization that “offers a number of important services to help make sure that students [sic] lives are as fun and problem free as possible.” The CSU also claims to defend the rights of students and represent their interests. Indeed, these are honourable principles that any student union must uphold if it is to ensure that their university is a safe haven for their students to engage in the free marketplace of ideas. It is therefore baffling as to why the CSU would go against their own principles.

In the 2014 CSU By-Elections Referendum, scheduled to take place from Nov. 25 to Nov. 27, the issue of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement sticks out like a sore thumb. While all the other questions deal with important issues that affect the lives of students, such as the establishment of a daycare centre and the improvement of student housing conditions, it is the former issue which seems awkwardly placed.

Support for BDS against the State of Israel runs counter to the principles of what the CSU claims to uphold, as well as most standards of decency.

It is discriminatory to single Israel out for isolation, when such standards are not applied equally across all governments. The CSU has not seen fit to condemn the systemic discriminations of women and minorities by Saudi Arabia, the torture of hundreds of thousands of political dissidents in North Korea, and many other gruesome and serious human rights abuses that take place throughout the world. Neighboring Israel is Syria, where a bloody civil war has led to the deaths of an estimated 200,000 people. If focus is to be put solely on Palestinian suffering, more than 2,000 dead in Syria are Palestinian refugees and more than 55,000 Palestinians were forced to flee the country, according to Arab-Israeli journalist Khaled Abu Toameh. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) estimates that 235,000 Palestinians have been displaced inside Syria since the beginning of the conflict two years ago. These figures dwarf the Palestinian casualties that have happened in conflicts with Israel.

If consistency was pursued, then there would be a call for BDS against Syria and those of Syrian descent. However, such actions would be equally as ridiculous as what is being leveled at Israel. It goes against the CSU principles that were highlighted earlier, in that it sets a double-standard. Israeli students and those who identify with the State of Israel will be demonized for their affiliation. What was once a safe-space for students of all different backgrounds to exchange ideas will be replaced with narrow-minded and intolerant policies fueled by an anti-Israel obsession.

Apart from the inherently discriminatory nature of this BDS motion, it is also downright idiotic. Intel’s new multi-core processor was completely developed at its facilities in Israel. Will BDS supporters seek to remove such products from Concordia University, since they are developed and manufactured in Israel? It would certainly make for a technologically-bare campus, seeing as Israel also hosts Motorola and IBM’s largest R&D facilities outside the United States. Microsoft and Cisco also built their only foreign R&D facilities in that country.

Selective outrage seems to be a theme among proponents of BDS. It is therefore crucial that students vote ‘no’ against BDS when it comes to a referendum and that the CSU fulfill its mandate for all students of Concordia University. Instead of seeking to stigmatize a group of people, we should all focus on ways to improve the quality of student life across the board.

Bradley Martin is a Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) Fellow at Concordia University.

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