Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The Train Has No Brakes: Ryerson University Edition

One of the main bases for my objections to the BDS movement is that the "train has no brakes." It might start with something facially defensible -- a targeted divestment from a firm that directly supplies occupation-supporting infrastructure, a narrow sanction directly attached to the settlements -- but almost never stays there. It keeps rolling, until it reaches flat bans on collaborating with Jews (Sydney, Australia), or open calls for the expulsion of all Jews (Durban University of Technology).

Ryerson University, Toronto, has been a center of BDS activity in Canada. Earlier this week, their student council was scheduled to vote on a resolution commemorating Holocaust Education Week. The resolution did not mention Israel. It was also never voted on. A walkout led Students for Justice in Palestine and the Muslim Students Association deprived the meeting of a quorum, preventing the voted from occurring.
“What starts with BDS does not end with BDS,” said Amanda Hohmann, national director of B’nai Brith’s League for Human Rights. “More often than not, BDS is simply a gateway drug to more blatant forms of anti-Semitism.”
And let's be clear: The reaction against commemorating the Holocaust is not isolated to Ryerson. It is part of a larger pattern whereby some see "the Holocaust not as a source of trauma but as a source of privilege, and an unjust privilege at that." When it comes to Jewish access to progressive discourses around equality and non-discrimination, the Holocaust "is the last firewall left standing; the last citadel the forces of Gentile Supremacy have not yet been able to overrun."

The train has no brakes. It doesn't stop at BDS, and it won't stop at a "mere" walkout protesting Holocaust commemoration either. Board at your -- or more accurately, my -- peril.

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