Student government at the University of Michigan has voted to have the university look into divesting from any companies that do business with Israel, saying that at least some of these companies "violate Palestinian human rights." If you want to know how quickly things are going downhill, this motion has been brought before the student government 10 times before, beginning in 2002. Just last year, the resolution was voted down 34-13.
The motion was brought by Students Allied for Freedom and Equality, saying that companies like Boeing, Hewlett-Packard, and United Technologies contributed to attacks on Palestinians in "occupied" areas. When the result was announced after a meeting that lasted nearly eight hours, supporters applauded while opponents cried. Hafsa Tout of the Central Student Government (CSG) said:
By passing (the resolution) what we are saying to Palestinian students is we acknowledge for the first time that this is an issue that deeply affects their everyday campus experiences, and that the broader campus owes it to them to have a real institutional conversation about it. Nowhere in that validation and humanization of one group of students does this resolution isolate or marginalize another group.
That is absolutely ridiculous. There is no way Tout can actually believe this doesn't marginalize another group. What does this say to Jewish and Israeli students? By painting Israel as aggressors and occupiers, they are clearly isolating and marginalizing. CSG member Andrew Watkins said this "false dichotomy" is unfair:
None of this vital historical context has been communicated and the reductionist story that we have been told is both misleading and unfair to our community," Watkins said. "We have been told time and time again a simple story: Israel violates human rights and therefore, if you value human rights, you must vote 'Yes.' Suddenly a longstanding and historically complicated conflict has been boiled down to a yes or no question - intentionally over-simplified and woefully lacking in context. We should reject all false dichotomies that have been presented to us, as these false dichotomies artificially and unnecessarily pit us against each other.
University of Michigan Regent Mark Bernstein (D) spoke out against the move, calling it an "intellectually bankrupt, morally repugnant expression of anti-Semitism." A senior at the University of Michigan, Suzy Weiss, wrote that there was a deep hypocrisy:
Never mind the fact that true divestment would mean surrendering our cellphones, unplugging dialysis patients from life-saving machines at the University hospital, erasing Waze, and never seeing a Gal Gadot movie ever again.
Never mind the fact that if these students were really concerned about oppression, they’d focus their efforts on, say, China, an economic behemoth and one of the most vicious state abusers of human rights on the planet.
Never mind that if they really cared about progressive values, the genocide of the Syrian people, the hanging of gay people in Iran and the male guardianship system in Saudi Arabia would get some air time.
"There was a master narrative: the aggressors versus victims, the bullies versus the underdogs, the oppressors and the oppressed. The implications were clear: If you stand for justice and freedom, you stand against Israel." She also said that this further divides people, "The speeches, cheers and jeers are great for coarsening opinions and alienating us from one another, but don’t do much in terms of justice or freedom — here or in the Holy Land."
She's right. As a Michigander, I am so completely grossed out by the students at the University of Michigan for this move.