The Associated Students of the University of Oregon recently approved a resolution in which they endorsed the boycott, divest, sanction (BDS) movement against Israel and resolved to prohibit the purchase of products from certain firms because of those companies’ presumed connections to Israel. The nonbinding resolution refers only to expenditures and purchases of the ASUO, and encourages the broader campus community to follow suit. It did not explicitly adopt the parts of the BDS agenda that call for a boycott of intellectual engagements and collaborations with Israeli universities and scholars.
First, I would like to acknowledge the respectful manner in which students debated the issue. The Arab-Israeli conflict is one of the most difficult social and political issues of modern times, and it is very important that our community approach discussions of this matter with mutual respect. While emotions understandably were high, that respectful behavior was manifest at the ASUO meeting at which this topic was debated. I would also like to acknowledge that the ASUO didn’t go so far as to adopt the tactics of the BDS movement with respect to boycotts of intellectual interchange between Israel and other nations. Not allowing the free interchange of scholars would harm the very mission of our university and interfere with academic freedom.
While I wholeheartedly support the right of our students individually and as members of a student organization to express their First Amendment-protected opinions, I feel it is important to briefly comment on the ASUO action because it contradicts the ASUO mission to support the interests of all students in a diverse community.
The University of Oregon is committed to the principle of inclusion, and over the last three years each school, college and administrative unit on our campus has focused – through the IDEAL framework and Diversity Actions Plans -- on efforts to enhance and strengthen policies and practices that make this campus welcoming and inclusive to all. I believe the ASUO resolution is inconsistent with these values.
Regardless of the relative merits of the Palestinian Authority and the State of Israel, it is important that all of us make every effort we can to avoid dividing our community along the lines of ideology, religion or national origin. To many Jewish people, myself included, the BDS movement not only seeks to criticize the policies of the current Israeli government, but also calls into question the very right of the State of the Israel to exist.
As ASUO considers future legislative actions on behalf of the student body, I hope our student leaders will seek ways to band together in support of our common humanity. I am looking forward to partnering with our campus community – including ASUO and all student organizations – toward that end.