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We are Vassar alumnae/i, parents of students and friends of Vassar College strongly opposed to the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) resolutions against Israel submitted to Vassar's Student Government (the VSA) by certain student organizations.   We oppose BDS for several reasons:

  • Obsessive and unjustified focus on Israel. BDS supporters obsessively focus on Israel, the sole democracy in the Middle East and the world's only Jewish homeland, while ignoring the real atrocities occurring in the region. In the past few years, hundreds of thousands of Syrian civilians, including many Palestinians, have been murdered, raped and starved to death.  Terrorist organizations like ISIS are beheading men, women and children.  Minority Christian, Kurdish, and Muslim populations face endemic persecution, and members of the LGBTQ community live in silence and fear.  In contrast, Israel is a stable democracy where its Arab minority votes, thrives in institutions of higher education, and sits in Israel's parliament and on Israel's highest court.  In Israel, as in the United States, antidiscrimination law, as well as civil society, protect religious and ethnic minorities and people of all sexual orientations. 
  • Is anti-Israel rather than pro-Palestinian.  BDS is not concerned with the welfare of Palestinians but rather with the destruction of Israel.  BDS does NOT promote a peaceful resolution to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. It seeks the eradication of the world's only Jewish state.  Omar Barghouti, the founder  of the BDS movement and one of its leaders, has openly admitted that the movement seeks to establish one Palestinian Arab state in place of (not co-existing with) Israel.  Others in the BDS movement, like Ali Abunimah, who appeared at Vassar in 2014, regularly compare Israel to Nazi Germany. Jaspir Puar, who appeared at Vassar this February, revives "blood libel" accusations by suggesting that Israelis harvest Palestinian organs, and she supports the recent wave of terrorism and violence committed against Israelis. 
  • Opposes dialogue and other constructive approaches.  BDS supporters, such as Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), follow an "anti-normalization" policy, which rejects dialogue with groups who do not adopt their extremist position.  They aggressively try to suppress opposing views by falsely equating Zionism with racism and by using tactics, such as “Israel Apartheid Week” or the boycott poster campaign, an art installation that features BDS propaganda posters in the College Center and Faculty Commons.  BDS supporters have had a pernicious effect at Vassar, where they repeatedly sponsor speakers who vilify Israel, including outright anti-Semites like Max Blumenthal and Jasbir Puar. They are regularly aided and abetted in these efforts by vocal faculty and several academic departments and programs. No department or program has publicly opposed these hate-laced figures or produced events to confront this brand of hate. 
  • Leaves devastated campuses in its wake.  University and college campuses subjected to aggressive BDS campaigns regularly suffer polarization, divisiveness, and often blatant anti-Semitism, all of which create a hostile environment for Jewish students.  Many of those students feel uncomfortable expressing themselves publicly about Israel and fear harassment on social media and social ostracization if they do speak out.  The repetition of untruths denying the historical connection of Jews to Israel, the false labeling of Israel as an apartheid state that engages in ethnic cleansing, and the outrageous suggestion, uttered just this month at Vassar by Jasbir Puar, that Jews use the Holocaust to suppress the genocides of other people,  inevitably results in verbal (and sometimes physical) attacks on Jewish students. 
  • Results in blatant anti-Semitism and intimidation of pro-Israel students.  Unsurprisingly, in February, after the launch of BDS at Vassar, Vassar's Yik Yak (a social media platform) contained several anti-Semitic posts, including one that read "F*ck Jews."  At a recent SJP event held to promote the BDS campaign, T-shirts featuring a gun-toting Leila Khaled, a Palestinian terrorist who was responsible for the murder of several Jewish civilians, were sold.  Last semester, SJP members attempted to prevent members of J Street from attending a left-wing conference on Israel because the conference included Zionist participants.  In 2014, SJP members picketed an International Studies class that traveled to Israel and the West Bank to study water issues, and SJP's social media posted a Nazi propaganda cartoon.  This earned SJP a short-lived suspension over the summer, but it was back in business by fall 2014.  

In short, BDS demonizes, delegitimizes and imposes a double standard on Israel in order to eliminate the Jewish homeland.  It is, in the words of former Harvard University president Lawrence H. Summers, "anti-Semitic in effect if not in intent."

The BDS campaign, and the false labeling of its opponents as racists and bigots, has polarized the campus community and has already alienated hundreds of alumni members of the Vassar family, who are devastated that this hate has been permitted to flourish at the institution that they have generously supported with their time, effort and resources.

Accordingly, the undersigned call upon the VSA, the student body and the administration to reject the BDS divestment resolution and to take other steps toward healing the rifts this campaign has created on campus and in the greater Vassar community.

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