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Please put BDS Response in the comments section.
Click here for complete coverage from the Daily Pennsylvanian.
Click here to read a leadership statement from Penn student leaders
who support a strong U.S.-Israel relationship.
Click here to read a letter from Penn President Amy Gutmann; the letter was read to a crowd of over 700 at the Alan Dershowitz event on February 2, 2012.
Click here to watch a taped version of the live address from
Professor Alan Dershowitz on Thursday, February 2.
STATEMENT REGARDING A NATIONAL BDS MOVEMENT CONFERENCE
AT THE UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA
This February, the BDS Movement (that advocates Boycott, Divest, and Sanctions against Israel) will hold its national conference at Penn. The conference, which is hosted by a student group called Penn BDS, will bring together academics, professional activists, students, and community members to advocate for the boycott, divestment and sanction of the State of Israel.
The BDS movement is less about constructive ideas for building peace and more about delegitimizing the State of Israel. It applies a double standard that destroys the sophisticated civil discourse that is a core element of the mission of the University of Pennsylvania.
Penn Hillel communicated its objections to the University about having this type of conference on Penn’s campus. While we would have preferred that the conference not be granted space at the University of Pennsylvania, we welcome the university’s statement distancing itself from the conference and affirming its strong rejection of boycott, divestment or sanction of Israel.
Penn Hillel is working assertively with the university to assure that the conference does not create a hostile or unsafe environment for the free exchange of ideas and for students to be openly pro-Israel.
Penn Hillel staff and student leaders are using this situation as an opportunity to educate students about Israel, inform them about the reality of the BDS campaign, and expand the coalition of Israel’s friends at Penn among both Jews and non-Jews.
We appreciate your support and partnership. It makes a huge difference to the students Hillel serves. We want to make sure that you are informed about what is happening and we invite your suggestions to help us successfully navigate this event.
Rabbi Mike Uram Martin Lautman Alex Jefferson
Director President, Board of Overseers President, Student Board
1. Penn Hillel staff and student leaders are using this situation as an opportunity to educate students about Israel, inform them about the reality of the BDS campaign, and expand the coalition of Israel’s friends at Penn among both Jews and non-Jews.
2. Penn Hillel is working assertively with the university to assure that the conference does not create a hostile or unsafe environment for the free exchange of ideas and for students to be openly pro-Israel.
Specific Programmatic Components:
- Alan Dershowitz Speech and Dinner with Leadership Students
- Israel Across Penn planned for the weekend of the conference. 20-40 students will host meals at their homes, fraternity and sorority houses, or dorms, with different conversations about Israel. Meals will be targeted for Jewish and non-Jewish students. Student hosts will be trained by Hillel staff and given educational materials. We expect between 500 and 700 students to participate.
- The Philadelphia Federation (acting in partnership with Hillel of Greater Philadelphia) are the largest funders for both events mentioned above.
- Student Op-Ed – The first one came out yesterday - here is the link: http://thedp.com/index.php/article/2012/01/shlomo_klapper_bds_bigoted_double_standards
- Student Leadership statement will also be published in the student newspaper expressing support for Israel signed by 40-50 student leaders with titles.There is also talk about creating an “Invest in Israel” party among students involved with the Greek system.
- Two weeks after the conference there is going to be an Israel retreat planned at Barack Hebrew Academy for college students from all over the Philadelphia area.
- Finally, we are in the process of building a robust calendar of amazing events throughout the rest of the semester.
Penn Statement on Planned BDS Conference
A campus student group, Penn BDS, is planning a national conference in February that will encourage boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel.
This is not an event sponsored by the University. The event is being sponsored by a registered student group, as is permitted of any student group on campus.
The University of Pennsylvania has clearly stated on numerous occasions that it does not support sanctions or boycotts against Israel. Indeed, Penn has important and successful scholarly collaborations with Israeli institutions that touch on many areas of our academic enterprise.
Penn has always supported free expression and the free exchange of ideas. These are essential elements of a great university. These principles apply to this event, as they would any other student event, whether or not we agree with or condone the message BDS seeks to communicate.
Student Op-Ed in the Daily Pennsylvanian
The Penn community, as President Gutmann wrote, “has important and successful scholarly collaborations with Israeli institutions that touch on many areas of our academic enterprise.” Many Israelis are visiting or standing Penn Professors. Penn’s Katz Center hosts numerous Israeli fellows each year. Recently, Penn joined with Israel’s Ben Gurion University to honor acclaimed Israeli author Aharon Appelfeld.
The Penn community does not support BDS because boycotts are destructive and divisive, undermine hopes for peace and do nothing to help the Palestinians improve their lives, begin state building or develop democratic institutions. Above all, boycotts squelch all forms of dialogue and nuanced understanding by consigning blame to and penalizing only one side of the Israeli-Arab conflict. Penn, like all other universities, stands for the free exchange of ideas. Boycotts at the University, therefore, are especially repulsive.
The Penn community does not support BDS because its quasi-rational basis — the charge that Israel’s behavior mimics Apartheid South Africa’s, and, as such, Israel should be similarly punished — is spurious at best, Orwellian at worst. Despite her tough situation, Israel embodies liberal democratic freedoms and boasts a westernized, open, liberal and free society.
Israel’s record on human rights is among the world’s best, especially among nations that have confronted comparable existential threats. For instance, Israel minimizes civilian casualties by exposing its own soldiers to the risk of door to door “retail” fighting, rather than resorting to “wholesale” bombing of the kind done by many other countries, including our own.
Israel is the only country in the Middle East where minorities such as gays, Arabs and women are generally granted equal civil rights.
Gays flock to Israel not only because Israel grants them equal rights but because Israel is the only Middle Eastern country where gays have the right — to life. Hanging homosexuals is unfortunately commonplace in Israel’s neighbors — including the Palestinian Authority — but is unheard of in Israel. In fact, Israel ended discrimination against gays in her army long before the United States repealed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
Arab-Israelis comprise about 20-percent of Israel’s population and participate in Israeli democracy at all levels. Arab men and women continue to vote in elections for and serve in the Knesset, Israel’s parliament. Out of respect for the complexity of Arab-Israeli identity, Arab citizens are exempt from the compulsory military service that has secured the accomplishments of Israeli democracy.
Not only can Israel’s women drive and dress as they wish — rare freedoms in the Middle East — but they are equal to men in all respects. In fact, the second most powerful elected Israeli official is Tzipi Livni, a woman.
Israel’s Supreme Court is the only independent judiciary in the Middle East and one of the most highly regarded in the world, and has not shied away from confronting other branches of government to advance human rights. The Supreme Court consists of Arabs, such as Justice Salim Joubran, and is led by a woman, Chief Justice Dorit Beinisch.
BDS is right that Israel is different from all other western countries: only Israel took black Africans out of slavery and into freedom, instead of the reverse.
This list could go on and on, and by every single standard Israel would surpass most other countries, especially those that perpetrate real human rights violations and against which no divestiture petition has been directed, such as Syria, Sudan and Somalia (just to name three countries whose names begin with the letter “S”).
To be sure, Israel is far from perfect. But ignoring the fact — that Israel is the only country in the Middle East with a moral army, a commitment to the equality of minorities and an independent judiciary — in an effort to single out the Jewish state of Israel as if it were the worst human rights offender is a bigoted double standard, pure and simple.
Ignorance can excuse bigotry, but neither — like BDS — has support on our college campus.
Shlomo Klapper is a College freshman. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.