Invest in dialogue, reject BDS

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A large wooden wall painted gray and covered in hand-painted quotes trying to persuade UT students to support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement stands in the West Mall. The BDS movement is a consumer, academic and cultural boycott of Israel. Thinly veiled as a nonviolent movement to further the Palestinian cause, the campaign is an acrimonious attack against the academic integrity and open dialogue on which our campus thrives. Open dialogue and education are the only way to achieve peace in the Middle East, and the BDS movement is in staunch opposition to that fact. The BDS movement takes an extreme position that is no way a reflection of Americans’ core ideas and values, and it has no place on the UT campus.

Leaders in Washington and on campus support a strong U.S.-Israel relationship. Specifically, President Barack Obama and UT Student Government President Thor Lund similarly understand that only through dialogue and education can we achieve peace in the Middle East.

Today, Obama arrives in Jerusalem to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Earlier this month, Lund joined 2,000 students at a pro-Israel conference in Washington, D.C to learn about the partnership between the two nations.

As hard as they try, the BDS organizers at UT can’t seem to cut off all ties with Israel. This week PSC members will screen the movie “5 Broken Cameras,” a film critical of Israel but co-directed by an Israeli, funded by Israeli organizations and Israel’s government, and nominated as an Israeli film for an Oscar. Boycotting Israel harms even Israel’s critics.

Support for a Palestinian state and support for the U.S.-Israel relationship are not mutually exclusive. Speaking in Cairo in 2009, Obama called the bond between the U.S. and Israel “unbreakable,” while also making a powerful statement that a Palestinian nation was in all party’s best interests. Addressing the Palestinian Authority and Israel alike he said, “The situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable,” concluding, “America will not turn our backs on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity and a state of their own.” 

It’s certainly not Israel holding the Palestinian people back. The 1947 U.N. Partition Plan was the first time Israel accepted a Palestinian state only for it to be rejected by the Arab world. In 2005, Israel unilaterally withdrew all of its troops and citizens from the Gaza Strip. In 2008, Israel offered close to 98 percent of the West Bank and shared control over Jerusalem. None of these peace offerings have moved Palestinian leadership.

While waiting for a peace partner, Israel has become a “startup nation”, a progressive society that allows gays to serve openly in the military, women to comprise 23 percent of Israel’s new parliament and places no limits on freedom of speech or of the press. Israel offers greater freedoms to Arab citizens, who comprise 20 percent of the total population, than any other country in its region. Arab Israelis vote, are represented in parliament and sit on the Supreme Court. 

The partnership between the U.S. and Israel strengthens American businesses and security. Microsoft, Google and Apple, Inc. are a few of the approximately 100 companies with active branches in Israel and the countries exchange more than $78 million worth of goods and services daily. The U.S. and Israel are developing together the most sophisticated anti-missile defense systems and Israeli military innovations are saving American lives in Afghanistan and Iraq.

While not disregarding or distracting from Palestinian issues, the goal of Israel Peace Week is to accurately depict Israel, a nation that, since its founding in 1948, has never seen a second of non-democratic rule, a country that is unabashedly, unequivocally pro-American. 

Rather than divesting, our University has an opportunity to invest in dialogue. Our presidents have chosen the path towards peace, and we welcome you to join us. 

Frydberg is a Middle Eastern Studies sophomore from San Antonio.