On Sunday night, May 4th, a resolution was brought to the WSA entitled: “Wesleyan Divestment From Companies Profiting from or Contributing to Illegal Occupation of Palestine.” As Wesleyan students and Israel supporters who voiced our opinions against the resolution, we felt marginalized and targeted for our beliefs. The room was full of incredible hostility, despite the efforts of WSA members to keep it civil. As the vocal minority in the meeting, we were shushed and openly mocked. This atmosphere of disrespect is not at all conducive to open dialogue, and is oppressive to anyone who does not hold the majority view. This should not be acceptable at Wesleyan. Instead, we should promote productive and meaningful discussion that leads to real solutions, not campus polarization.
In addition to the hostile campus climate that it has created and continues to perpetuate, we also feel that this resolution fails to accomplish its alleged goals. One of the clauses of the resolution states that it aims to “stand against any and all injustices.” While this is obviously an admirable goal, we believe that this resolution, if it has any tangible effects, perpetuates human rights abuses. It directly harms the security of both Palestinians and Israelis by targeting companies that provide equipment and assistance to their security forces. This hurts the lives of real people.
However, due to the unfeasibility and complete unlikelihood that the university will divest its endowment as the resolution suggests, this decision is merely symbolic. It serves only to associate Wesleyan with the BDS movement, whose leaders openly call for the destruction of the State of Israel. Although in the meeting, sponsors of the resolution stated that it was not associated with BDS, they clearly invoke the BDS movement in a WeSpeak published last week by citing and using the language of the official BDS website. Furthermore, we proposed an amendment condemning the official BDS movement in order to make the resolution more representative of the student body. This was rejected by the resolution’s sponsors, demonstrating its inherent ties to BDS.
As soon as the result of the vote was revealed, many of the students in support of the resolution erupted in cheers, continuing to loudly celebrate outside the room. Due to previous instances of harassment and the antagonistic actions of many in the meeting, we did not feel comfortable leaving until the crowd had dissipated. Members of the WSA offered to escort us out of the building and even call a Public Safety officer to ease our discomfort and ensure our safety. Although we did not feel the need to take them up on this offer, they clearly recognized the intimidation that pervaded the meeting. No student on this campus should be made to feel unsafe for his or her beliefs. This resolution is damaging to the campus climate and to the people it purports to help.
Markell is a member of the class of 2014; Fraiman is a member of the class of 2015; Viterbi is a member of the class of 2017.