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September 26, 2016 / 23 Elul, 5776
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The Proper Response to the ASA Boycott of Israel

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2. Within Israel proper, schools are segregated and, following the model of the Jim Crow South, the government allocates significantly less funding to Palestinian schools, which are often overcrowded and understaffed. Palestinian university professors in Gaza rarely receive permission to travel abroad for conferences, those in the West Bank also face difficulties, and international faculty have been prevented from visiting Palestinian universities.

Additionally, she says that the boycott is intended to give a voice to those who support Palestinians on college campuses. By standing up to Israel, the hope is that the popular, automatic assumption that Israel is in the right will be challenged. These supporters are often subject to unfair treatment in her view. She cites a few examples.

I found this interesting because I have become so accustomed to hearing that college campuses are so incredibly anti-Israel that supporters of Israel are subject to discrimination. I guess it’s all a matter of perception.

She also explains that anti-Israel is not anti-Jew or anti-Semitic. This is because the ASA resolution does not target people or ethnicities. Instead it targets institutions that are complicit in human rights violations. By targeting those acting instead of the kind of people who are like those acting, the resolution is not a form of ethnic bigotry.

Finally, she argues that while there are far graver humanitarian issues around the world, the relationship between Israel and the United States justifies singling out Israel. Also, the USA has undermined humanitarian efforts in Israel by vetoing UN resolutions condemning Israel.

It’s so important to understand the claims of those who seek to boycott Israel. They have actual grievances. If their grievances are addressed with competing facts we have a chance of rebutting their claims. Upping the rhetoric and organizing counter boycotts does little to actually discuss the issues. Instead it turns into a war that will be won with the group that has greater public support and resources. That’s just a modern version of “might makes right.” We should be focused on “right makes right.”

If the grievances are true, I can understand why some people feel compelled to organize a limited boycott. Even if I wouldn’t join the boycott myself, I can empathize with their concerns. Wouldn’t any of us prefer that the two substantive examples she cites be untrue? And if they were true, would we not want to fix the problems? I know I would.

I don’t have any first hand data to rebut the claims made in this op-ed. I am sure there are those who can confirm if these policies are real, or explain why these policies exist if they are true, or who is to blame for these policies, or maybe agree that some policies should actually be adjusted. But we need to tone down the rhetoric on both sides and begin to solve the problems. That’s the real solution to BDS and accusations of apartheid in Israel. Showing examples of equality and freedom is not sufficient. Each specific claim should be handled and addressed sufficiently. Let’s get on the same page and fix the misconceptions or errors, whichever it is, it doesn’t really matter.

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Rabbi Eliyahu Fink

About the Author: Rabbi Eliyahu Fink, J.D. is the rabbi at the famous Pacific Jewish Center | The Shul on the Beach in Venice CA. He blogs at finkorswim.com. Connect with Rabbi Fink on Facebook and Twitter.

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