The College’s stance on Israeli occupation: What no one really mentions

Photo credit: Al Jazeera

Photo credit: Al Jazeera

By Gettysburg Anti-Capitalist Collective

So I, like many of us do, spend a lot of time slogging up and down the library steps. I couldn’t help but notice the provocative photo gallery currently in the stairwell. We are, for better or worse, in many ways isolated from the world in our small college in southern Pennsylvania, so the images of graffiti covered concrete walls looming over frighted kids motivated me to take some time out of my day to do a bit of research on the occupation, and what I found was surprising.

Gettysburg College has already picked a side.

“Scholars for Peace in the Middle East” published a list of 250 universities and colleges who have rejected the academic boycott of Israel, a part of the greater BDS campaign against the Israeli occupation of Palestine. For those unfamiliar with BDS, it’s a global movement aimed at granting freedom, justice, and equality for Palestinians by boycotting Israeli goods that benefit the occupation, divestment from Israeli institutions that support the occupation and sanctions against the Israeli government to pressure them to end the occupation. For those familiar with history, you’ll see that this is the same strategy that many in the international community used to help end the Apartheid government in South Africa. As part of this strategy, many in the BDS movement call upon colleges and universities to refuse to work with the academic institutions of Israel which provide both the technical ability and intellectual justifications for the Israeli government to continue its occupation of Gaza and the West Bank.

The College, in an official capacity, has rejected this boycott. According to Legal Insurrection, a conservative blog, the director of communications and media at Gettysburg College confirms that “Gettysburg College, a private liberal arts college in Pennsylvania, rejects the academic boycott of Israel passed by the American Studies Association” in an email sent to them in 2013.

This is surprising to me. For better or worse, the College tends to take a very moderate, apolitical stance on issues. Regardless of your personal feelings, the solution the College presented for the YAF “free speech” debacle was a middle-of-the-road as was possible. However, this blatant rejection of the academic boycott is far from neutral. Neutrality is not the same as rejection, and perhaps, both students and faculty deserve answers as to who gave the go ahead on this. I didn’t get an email about this. Did you? Rather than consulting or even informing the campus community, the college saw fit to communicate their stance on this issue to a conservative blog before they informed those affected by the decision.

Let’s not ignore the fact, either, that the BDS movement is a relatively moderate response to the realities of the Israeli Occupation. In spite of the movement’s criticism (launched by politicians such as Secretary Clinton), responding to the anti-Palestinian violence with a refusal to help enable those actions is neither rash nor anti-semitic. It is simply a moral response felt (and feel) obligated to take.

Without a doubt, the Israeli Occupation will be remembered as one of the most divisive issues in modern history. And while in rainy Pennsylvania we may be far away from the walls being raised in Gaza, we must all decide for ourselves what side we’re on, and as a community what actions we should take. We shouldn’t let Penn Hall decide for us.

 

 

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