It was around 3:20 p.m. on Dec. 6, 2018. I had been at the New York University Student Life Center since 2:30, anticipating and preparing for a sizable crowd of Jewish students coming to witness the impending student government session.
As I looked around, there were more and more students surrounding me wearing blue and white; we were huddled outside of the room where the vote was about to take place. I was distributing Israel-related stickers to students standing around when I heard them.
“How do you spell justice? BDS! How do you spell racist? NYU!” A scared freshman next to me hesitantly asked what was going on.
“Sounds like they’re respelling words,” a fellow Jewish student leader answered. It was nice to find some laughter in all of this.
The American Jewish community knows for the most part what has been happening on the front lines on college campuses regarding Israeli politics. The BDS movement — the boycotting, divestment and sanctioning of Israel — is gaining traction on campuses all over the country. But what you might not know is how it feels to see the look of utter shock and contempt from people you thought were friends spotting you out of context across a room and realizing you’re “one of them.”
This is more than a debate over Israeli politics: This is Jewish politics, and it’s personal.
For those who keep up with Israel news on college campuses, I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. If you don’t: When the student government at NYU or a similar institution proposes a resolution entitled “The Resolution for Palestinian Human Rights,” they have a specific agenda with a clear desired outcome.
Although the resolution didn’t include BDS in the title, it mentioned BDS more than 10 times. They weren’t trying to fool anyone — except the media that published articles sharing the resolution’s positive-sounding title, while omitting important details.
Details like the fact that 70-plus Jewish students weren’t even allowed to step foot into the voting room to share their voices and that the few students eventually let it in got less than half the amount of speaking time as the student senators who wrote the resolution. Did I mention that those student senators rewrote the rules to ensure that their resolution would pass?
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