With summer break upon us, I hope to post more.
At the end of my previous post, criticizing supporters of J Street U at U Wash for voting down a divestment resolution, I asked for their response. I received one yesterday from U Wash students Shahar Golan and Ruth Ferguson, and I am printing it below, as I received it. I will comment on it in a separate post.
Dear Mr. Haber,
This is Ruth Ferguson and Shahar Golan. We are the two students who are building a J Street U chapter at the University of Washington. We always appreciate hearing opposition to our personal views. It is always important for us to hear critique and challenge our own opinions.
With that said, we’d like to clear a few things up. Firstly, the foundation on which this article supports itself is mistaken. There is no J Street U chapter at UW. We are J Street supporters and plan to bring a chapter to UW in the fall, but for the time being we are free agents and merely students who opposed the UW divestment resolution. In fact, if you had heard either of our public speeches during the student senate hearing, you would have heard no ties made back to J Street. We only raise this point in clarification because it should be noted we acted on behalf of ourselves, not on behalf or representative of any organization, despite misleading media reports to the contrary.
The beginning of your post spoke about when J Street had “gone outside of the family” in the past and received a “crack of the communal whip” which brought it back to conformity in the tribe. One can only assume that you were appropriating this same conformity onto us in this statement based on the rest of your post.
Interestingly, in our statements in opposition to the divestment bill, we condemned human rights violations carried out by the Israeli government, criticized the occupation of the West Bank, and acknowledged the catastrophe of Palestinian suffering at the hands of a movement with which we identify strongly. We didn’t mention all of these issues, or ultimately oppose the resolution, because of concern about communal condemnation. In fact, we fully expected condemnation. And that is fine by us.
While you missed our speeches, StandWithUs did not, and they tweeted their disgust and disdain for our opposition to the occupation. Let us explain why we personally took a stance.
As many have noted, BDS is a set of tactics. Nothing is inherently good or bad about them. The question for us is “to what end?” Why are we utilizing these tactics?
Towards what ultimate goal?
We believe in a two-state solution that recognizes the rights of both Palestinians and Jews to self-determination and lives of dignity. We support efforts that we believe lead us towards that objective, and object to efforts which we believe lead us away from that objective. With that in mind, we were opposed to the divestment resolution at our school for several reasons.
First, although the divestment was specifically targeted at certain companies involved in the occupation of the West Bank, it was explicitly stated to be a part of the “Global BDS Movement.” The three demands of the global BDS movement were stated explicitly in resolution 20-39 presented at UW, including:
1. Ending its (Israel’s) occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the wall
2. Recognizing the fundamental rights of Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and
3. Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194
As these demands are incompatible with the two-state solution we seek, we objected to the explicitly stated goals of the resolution as part of the broader Global BDS campaign.
Second, while we seriously oppose the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, we were worried by the specific resolution at UW, and the Global BDS Movement’s lack of clarification regarding their interpretation of the term “occupied territories”. Some groups and individuals view Israel within the 1967 borders as an occupation of Arab land, an opinion that we wholeheartedly reject.
Finally, it was unclear to us what the ultimate goal of the resolution was and whether the resolution was intended to support an end to the occupation through two-states or another framework we do not support. As the sponsoring student group, SUPER, does not endorse either a one-state or two-state solution, we felt it unwise to support a tactic without clarity on the intention of the tactic.
You constantly accused us of guilt by association with the establishment pro-Israel groups. It is no secret that we hold different views than most supporters of groups like StandWithUs. While there is sometimes overlap in goals around particular issues, like some BDS efforts, it is quite clear that while some groups are apologists for the occupation, we are not. Our work includes challenging them and exposing them for what they are. This cannot and should not preclude us from working together, as it should not preclude us from working together with Palestinian solidarity groups. Further, your appreciation of the BDS movement's mass appeal (to one and two-staters), as well as your call for us to link “arms with over fifty Palestinian civil society organizations on this one point, despite its (J Street) disagreements with them on other points”, shows a double standard you apply to those you disagree with. You praise groups and individuals that overlook their disagreements to cooperate for the BDS cause, yet you attack us for doing the same and joining Huskies Against Divestment.
We are always open to criticism, and enjoy challenging our views. We encourage you to attend J Street U events (we are not sure if you have in the past) in the upcoming school year to hear our message first hand. We felt that your thoughts regarding J Street U at UW (which does not yet exist) rested on a lack of research on the actual occurrences at the UW. We respect your opinion regarding the BDS movement, although it differs from ours, and appreciate you posting our response.
Shahar and Ruth