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By Arthur O’Sullivan

I no longer fear Hell. I have seen the SA.

After writing six pages excoriating the appalling state of Israel-Palestine dialogue in academia, I hoped my last article would be my final word on the subject. Unfortunately—as so many statesmen have learned before me—this quagmire has a way of sucking people back in. Those who subjected themselves to my previous articles know that I have a bit of a pro-Israel bias. The recently passed SA Bill, “Resolution Calling for Binghamton University Divestment,” has done little to shift my stance.

The resolution mandates that the Student Association call for a ceasefire and denouncement of “apartheid” and “genocide” in Israel, and to implement the principles of the SUNY (no affiliation with the State University of New York) Boycott, Divest, and Sanction movement. Principal authors Tyler Brechner, Omar Acosta-Nuñez, and Rami Almawaldi argued that it is morally incumbent on the university to support divestment from Israel and companies “implicated in the genocide,” just as the SUNY system divested from South Africa’s apartheid regime in the 1980s. Much of this bill is advisory to the Binghamton University administration, who are unlikely to implement this resolution in any way.

This bill attracted some ire from the pro-Israel crowd—especially in light of BDS’ statement describing the October 7th terrorist attacks as a “powerful armed reaction of the oppressed Palestinians in Gaza,” and Israeli intelligence reports that convicted terrorists now hold senior positions in BDS and similar NGOs. Saul Hakim, leader of BUZO and member of SA Congress, led the opposition to this bill.

Binghamton Review live-streamed the full Congress session on its YouTube channel. The man behind the camera (me), observed the meeting in full, from setting up chairs to the dramatic final vote. In that time, what was a mild headache became aggravated by endless shouting and bureaucratic tedium into a near-crippling neuralgia. Discussion of the resolution itself didn’t even begin until over an hour and a half into the meeting. It started with debate about whether the bill should be debated. Saul Hakim contended that it was a break from SA precedent for the organization to involve itself with organizations such as BDS and endorse divisive political positions. In response, Omar Acosta-Nuñez cited SUNY’s aforementioned divestment from South Africa. The latter ultimately won, and the resolution itself became up for debate. There, eight speakers from each side made repetitive arguments for and against the bill. In addition to accusations of genocide and apartheid, pro-resolution speakers decried the “settler colonialism” of the Israeli state, citing the “intersectional” struggle of the Palestinians against Western and Zionist oppression. They assiduously denounced Hamas and antisemitism, both in the bill and when Jewish speakers came forward in support of the bill. This didn’t stop the anti-resolution speakers from accusing the other side of both. At long, long last the debate period was concluded. SA precedent and bylaws dictated that the vote would not occur until the next meeting. The pro-resolution faction, having the advantage, struck while the iron was hot. After several rounds of what I call “ping-pong” voting (where an unsuccessful motion keeps being put forward and rejected until someone breaks down), Brechner successfully passed a motion to suspend the rules—the vote occurred that night. By a slim majority, the resolution passed

Despite my bias, I’m willing to admit a compelling case for the resolution. Most would agree that SUNY’s divestment from South African apartheid was the right decision, so why not the same for Israel and its policies of separation with Palestinians? There’s a simple logic to it which was not sufficiently addressed in the debate.

Still, it’s telling that the only relevant precedent for the pro-resolution side comes from the 1980s. There is no resolution condemning Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine, for instance. More tellingly, there has yet to be a resolution calling for divestment with China in light of long-substantiated accusations of genocide against Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang (although one author, Tyler Brechner, claims he would support it). Moreover, divestment from South Africa is much closer to black-and-white (pardon the pun) morality—where one side is clearly right, the other wrong. Any attempts to impose the same simplistic worldview onto Israel and Palestine necessarily fail; the situation is far more complicated by the political and religious histories of each people. One might argue that Israel’s “genocide” makes this situation black-and-white. In fairness, this brief article can not litigate every accusation of genocide against Israel. Still, substantiating this crime requires enormous evidence—especially when contradicting the word of supranational authorities. The authors of this bill merely begged the question, writing “WHEREAS… the International Court of

Justice deeming it plausible that Israel is committing genocide. [Emphasis added]” In law, as in anywhere else, “plausibility” is not certainty. The authors of this resolution arrogantly elide this fact in their absolutist activism against Israel. 

At time of writing, the death toll in Gaza after over five months of brutal siege from Israel is approximately 33,000. (This figure is from the Gaza Ministry of Health, which is run by Hamas. This also doesn’t distinguish between civilian and combatant.) At an approximate population of 2.1 million, approximately 1.6% of Gaza’s population has died. While the tragedy in this figure can not be dismissed, this has yet to wipe out a single year of population growth (at approximately 3 children per woman) in the region. One can certainly make the case that Israeli policies in Palestine are cruel and lead to the violence we see today, but to call this war a “genocide” and put it in the same category as the Holocaust—which killed over 60% of European Jews—is misleading at best. At worst, one could describe it with a term I have avoided thus far…
Despite nominal claims to the contrary, Israel is being singled out by the Binghamton University SA and college campuses across the country. This resolution is (and, I predict, will remain) a one-of-its-kind targeting of a single bête noire in the international community, buoyed by hyperbole and suspicions not applied to any other place in the world. I generally detest labeling things I disagree with as “antisemitism”; ignoring someone’s arguments in favor of declaring their psychology defective is the lowest form of rhetoric. Yet the sheer, single-issue fervor of the so-called “anti-Zionist” movement on college campuses—whether they’re the relatively non-violent protests here, or the increasingly militant mobs forming at Ivy Leagues like Columbia—can’t be explained by simple appeals to collegiate activist spirit. Unless the SA becomes an activist organization, legislating on every hot-button pet-issue under the sun, this myopic activism against Israel and “Zionism” will continue to reek of antisemitism. This bill is an abuse: an abuse of SA authority, an abuse of the language of international law, and an abuse of the SA’s duty to represent the interest and beliefs of all students—not just the loudest group in the room.

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