Walking back on our principles of inclusion

Originally published by Shanni Alon at gw.therival.news on 4.25.18
451 views on date of transfer.

This is an opinion piece and does not reflect the views of The Rival.

I did not attend the vote Monday night, but I anticipated the outcome. The GW Student Association (SA) voted in favor of passing SR-S18-21 (18 in favor -6 abstention- 6 against). Unfortunately, GW was just the next school with a student government to pass a divestment bill.

Equally concerning was the SA’s failure to censure a senator who in the past has called for the boycott of events at GW solely because Jewish organizations were included, and who had posted other anti-semitic comments on social media. These comments were discovered and shared just as voting for SA elections began and many current SA senators and candidates condemned his comments.

So why did the SA not only fail to censure him, but also not have any sort of consequences? Did we not all agree that his comments were abhorrent and anti-Semitic? Did the SA not just pass a bill condemning anti-Semitism?

In reaction to the Alpha Phi incident, we rallied to promote diversity and inclusion on campus; this was the basis of most SA candidates. The decisions made Monday night by the SA are fundamentally in contradiction to these goals that we have committed to.

Sadly, a few SA members have come out and said they are disappointed in their peers for not voting in favor of the censure, which I and I’m sure many others in the Jewish community are thankful for, however, words are simply not enough anymore. Many of those same senators who voted for the censure then voted in favor of the bill.

SR-S18-21’s passage was anticipated. I kept a list of senators with their expected voting based on their personal political beliefs, which were easily discernible based on Facebook posts and events attended. Did SA senators vote according to their own beliefs or the people they are supposed to represent?

Facts regarding Israel were slanted and the bill cited reports that have been internationally debunked or have originated from anti-Semitic sources in an attempt to legitimize the argument. This bill does not once discuss how GW can directly help Palestinians, but rather wants GW to disassociate from Israel.

Two ‘whereas’ clauses were introduced into the bill: one reaffirms Israel’s right to exist while the other affirms that both Palestinians and Israelis have the right to safety, security, and self-determination. Yet, five senators opposed this addition and two abstained. This should have been unanimously supported. Just because one disagrees with the actions of a government does not mean the state should not exist. Nobody claims the United States should cease to exist because they disagree with President Donald Trump’s policies.

This bill is anti-Semitic. It aligns with the US State Department’s definition of modern day anti-Semitism. It applies standards to which we do not even hold our own government or other democratic states and it collectively holds Jews responsible for the actions of the Israeli government.

Additionally, we don’t know if GW invests money into these companies from which the SA has now voted to divest from. We do not know from what pool money is invested. We do not know how much we invest and our returns on the investment. Shouldn’t we have this information?

What if this now impacts our scholarships? GW has increased their merit based scholarships by over 50 percent, in just four years. It will certainly impact donations as I am sure many Jewish alumni, myself included will not donate to GW or will pull their donations. So how does the SA vote on a bill and pass such a bill without answers to these questions?

The GW administration has remained quiet on the issue only releasing a statement the morning after the vote stating that GW will not divest. While this is reassuring, they did not call out the bill and actions for what they are-- anti-Semitic. Nor was there any mention of the failed censure or anti-Semitic comments when they were released.

The problem persists because anti-Semitism is not equated to racism and therefore, blatant and tacit anti-Semitism will never have the same outcry as the Alpha Phi photo incident did earlier this semester. Had this bill or comments from a member of the SA or any GW student targeted another minority group-- the latinex community, the LGBTQ community, the black community-- everyone would have been appalled and up in arms. However, over 70 years after the Holocaust we still are not equating anti-Semitism with racism or discrimination.

Not only did the SA fail me and the Jewish community Monday night, but they failed all students at GW. They dismissed dialogue and intellectual pursuit. They passed a bill that is not only biased and not well researched, but divisive and failed to censure an anti-Semitic member of their organization.

Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) is the modern day anti-Semitism. And GW has just condoned and institutionalized anti-Semitism.

While I am disappointed in the administration and the SA, I am proud of the strength of the Jewish community and thankful to all those who spoke out and worked tirelessly this past year to combat this bill and foster a community of respect and dialogue.

The SA has failed the school.

The SA does not represent me and they certainly do not represent the student body.

CampusShanni Alon