How Jews on Left, Right Empower BDS

The BDS debacle at the University of Michigan proved once again that Jews can be their own worst enemies.

Since 2002, the University of Michigan’s Central Student Government (CSG) has, on 10 occasions, rejected resolutions to support the movement to boycott, divest from and sanction the State of Israel.

This month, however, for the first time, the resolution passed — to much hand-wringing in the Jewish community.

The students who fought the resolution did absolutely everything they could and are to be commended. But why did the resolution pass this time? Contributing factors included strong bonds forged between various “progressive” coalitions and anti-Israel students and a stacked CSG in which the vice president and several other members were staunch supporters of divestment.

But what sealed the deal in favor of BDS were Jews — in two different flavors of radicalism.

Sadly, Jewish Voice for Peace has become an integral part of nearly every campus-based attack on Israel, and Michigan was no exception. Jarring, though unsurprising, was the op-ed from the University of Michigan chapter of JVP, published the day before the divestment vote, entitled

“To fight white supremacy, support divestment.”

This, of course, is a blatant lie: The creation of the State of Israel was itself a historic triumph over a white supremacist regime that sought to destroy a people it considered racially inferior.

The second type of radical Jew that helped ensure the BDS victory is the far-right group behind the McCarthyite blacklist at the website Canary Mission, which has documented the names, affiliations and activities of a number of young anti-Israel activists at campuses across the country, holding them accountable, in perpetuity, for the ill-advised tweets of their youth. By creating the specter of a blacklist, Canary Mission handed powerful ammunition to the anti-Israel crowd at Michigan. BDS proponents so scared the members of the CSG that they would end up on a shadowy website intended to make them unemployable that they took the extraordinary measure of voting by secret ballot.

Is all lost for the pro-Israel community on campus? Have we entered an era when these two oddest of Jewish bedfellows open the floodgates to widespread divestment? Hardly. The very next night, with no Jewish Voice for Peace op-ed and an open, roll-call vote, the University of Maryland student government heartily rejected BDS.

 Seffi Kogen is the American Jewish Committee’s director of campus affairs.

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