U of I student's essay becomes open plea for Middle East peace
Jack Cadden's writing assignment went from the classroom to the center of a campus controversy recently.
The Jewish freshman at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign called on the university system’s board of trustees to avoid falling victim to widespread, anti-Israel rhetoric, such as that espoused by the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement.
The essay got the attention of the Jewish United Fund (JUF) of Metropolitan Chicago, which published it as an open letter.
"The goal of the campaign is simple: to criminalize and delegitimize the State of Israel, through calling on universities to withdraw funding from companies who do business with Israel," Cadden wrote. "With this movement only narrowing in on Israel, we should question whether this campaign is really about human rights, not on Israel's right to exist. Wouldn't it make sense that if the campaign was actually focused on human rights they would be mentioning the evils of the Islamic State or the violations in countless countries across Africa?"
Aaron Cohen, the vice president of marketing and communications for the JUF, told the North Cook News that the BDS movement is a sensitive topic for the Jewish community as a whole.
“BDS is deeply flawed because it assigns sole blame to Israel and ignores Palestinian culpability for the lack of a peace settlement,” Cohen said. “It targets Israel but harms Palestinians economically; and many of its proponents lapse into anti-Semitism by denying Israel’s legitimacy as the nation-state of the Jewish people, and by singling out Israel for opprobrium while ignoring far greater human rights abuses by nations in the region, including Syria, Turkey, Iran and Saudi Arabia.”
Cadden offered similar sentiments.
“As an American Jew, it is my goal to one day see peace in the region," he wrote. "The BDS movement makes no such attempt at returning leaders from both sides to talk peace. Instead, it provokes hate toward Israel and Jewish people claiming we stand bystander to these horrid human rights violations.”
Cadden's letter asks the board to respect the presence of Israelis and Jewish scholars in academia. He references a question that he says was part of the board's spring referendum:
""This referendum calls upon the Board of Trustees to pull its investments from companies that normalize, engage in or fund recognized violations of human rights, including those of the Palestinian people and all people marginalized on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion, sexuality, gender, class, and ability."
Cadden closes by saying that his hope is to one day see peace in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but groups like the BDS make it much harder.
"As the governing board of student life, do not let this movement trick you,” he wrote. “This is simply just the latest efforts by anti-Zionists at ending the only effective democracy in the Middle East.”
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