A group of students at UNM is following the University of California Berkeley’s trend by starting a “Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions” campaign against Israel.
This means the removal of school funds from groups that make a profit in Israel, said Nada Noor, a spokeswoman for UNM’s Coalition for Peace and Justice in the Middle East.
“Our aim is not to target Israel for the sake of targeting Israel but rather target companies engaging in and profiting from illegal, destructive and inhumane behavior,” she said. “Unfortunately, this will take a lot more than a Google search to locate.”
UC Berkeley and UC San Diego students recently brought motions to their student senates, but both were ultimately shot down, Noor said.
“A senate vote in favor of a divestment resolution would be nice, but a silent vote in favor is less significant than a prolonged debate. If you think about it, that’s why UC Berkeley’s campaign was still a great success,” she said.
The group is working to investigate which companies that have contracts with UNM are profiting from illegal activities in Israel, Noor said. She said the wave of student movements from the campaign is similar to student movements against the South African apartheid.
“As we know, the BDS campaigns against South Africa’s apartheid system began with students at universities around the country,” she said.
Donald Gluck, president of the Israel Alliance at UNM, said he thinks protests that are aimed against Israel, such as movements for BDS, are inherently racist.
“What bothers us is it doesn’t seem like Israel behaves worse than other countries,” he said. “If Israel behaves just as well as Somalia, or better than them, how come they come down on Israel? Because Jews are there.”
Noor said her group is working for BDS against other countries that have committed human rights abuses.
“Other issues members are serious about include divestment from ongoing human rights violations in Sudan and China,” she said. “This should be applied to this particular issue as well as other human rights and environmental issues.”
Israel Alliance spokeswoman Lynn Provencio said a BDS campaign could end up hurting the people it’s trying to help.
“We think this is a bad deal from several directions. (The Palestinian) economy relies on the Israeli economy quite a bit, so if you harm Israel’s economy you’re not doing Palestine any good,” she said. “This isn’t a movement aimed at helping the Arabs. It’s aimed at hurting Israel.”
Marc Prowisor, who spoke at UNM last week and works with security projects in Israel, said the BDS movement is likely to hurt Palestinian residents of Israel.
“I think it’s ridiculous. … The more companies that are hurt, the people really getting hurt are the Arab residents,” he said. “People just don’t realize the reality there, because they don’t live it.”
The best solution to any conflict in Israel is “to understand the full dynamics. I’ve always gotten along with my Arab neighbors,” Prowisor said.
“There’s so many different parties involved. It’s classic Middle East. There are parties that want to live in peace, and there are parties that simply don’t,” he said. “People prefer war to peace. It’s more profitable, I guess.”
The campaign won’t have any serious effect on Israel’s economy, Noor said.
“The goal of BDS was never to change Israel’s behavior or policies,” she said. “In fact, even a decent BDS campaign is unlikely to exert any economic pressure on Israel at all.”
That doesn’t mean the campaign is worthless, Noor said, because it still gets people to talk about the issue.
“It sheds light on the direct relationship we have with the Palestinian/Israeli conflict and the effects their conditions (have) on ours. The issue seems far too distant in mainstream media,” she said.
Noor said her group is also working for “Socially Responsible Investing.”
“SRI is about more than divesting from the bad; it is also about investing in the good and improving current investments,” she said.
“Socially Responsible Investing (means) taking responsibility for our direct and indirect actions.”