The big news coming out of the west coast this week seems bad for Israel. If you listen to or read the news as most people do, the gist of the story was that the University of California voted to join the anti-Israel BDS (Boycott, Divest from and Sanction Israel) movement.
What actually happened was that 65 percent of the voting members of the union representing the teaching assistants, readers and tutors and other student-workers at the University of California voted to join the national BDS movement.
That union, the UAW 2865, has more than 13,000 members. Fewer than 2,200 voted. That’s less than 17 percent of the total membership which voted, and of that number, only 65 percent voted in favor of the resolution. That means only 11 percent of the UAW 2865 membership voted to join the BDS movement. And that’s in California!
Still, it was a democratic election and the Resolution passed.
What exactly does the UAW 2856 BDS Resolution entail? Will Israeli academics no longer be permitted to speak at UC schools? Will Israelis be barred from attending UC schools? Will SodaStream no longer be used at UC events?
Of the three scenarios posed, only the last one could arguably be an issue under the UAW 2865 BDS Resolution, but it’s unlikely anyone is using SodaStream at UC events anyway.
The Resolution actually does very little. It calls on the University of California to “divest from companies involved in Israeli occupation and apartheid; it calls on the UAW International to do the same; and it calls on “the US government to end military aid to Israel.”
In other words, UAW 2865 BDS Resolution simply allows a group of self-righteous Israel haters to join together to ask the University of California to do something it will not do.
As for the U.S. government heeding the call from this tiny group of rabble-rousers? Not bloody likely. Finally, it is simply astounding that the UAW 2865 International has not already taken the action sought in this Resolution. Shouldn’t the members be sharing their hatred at home, first?
So, really, energy should not be expended worrying about the effects of this BDS resolution.
However, a group of knowledgeable non-profit organizations joined together and asked a very good question: are these teaching assistant and other student-workers permitted to engage in teaching their viewpoint about Israel to the UC students, as the organizers promised to do?
The AMCHA Initiative and 11 other pro-Israel organizations (see the full list at the end of this article) sent a letter to UC PResident Janet Napolitano several months ago, when the UAW 2865 vowed to push for a vote on its BDS Resolution.
In that letter, the pro-Israel organizations refer to a UAW 2865 public pledge:
We have a responsibility as educators to both learn about and teach the social issues of our time, including pressing global struggles such as the struggle of the Palestinian people for liberation from settler-colonialism and apartheid.
Given that pledge, the concerned organizations called on Napolitano to explain how the university system was going to enforce its “UC Regents Policy on Course Content.”
In response, the provost for the university system, Aimée Dorr, explicitly reminded all the university chancellors that the Policy on Course Content prohibits the UAW 2865 graduate student instructors from promoting BDS and anti-Israel propaganda in the classroom.
That policy, Regents Policy 2301, explicitly states: “Misuse of the classroom by, for example, allowing it to be used for political indoctrination, for purposes other than those for which the course was constituted… constitutes misuse of the University as an institution.”