This semester, I attended the Student Association candidate debate to ask candidates if they would support Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) legislation in the SA. The treatment I received was sadly expected — the apolitical state of the SA favors candidates who do not engage with controversial subjects. Several candidates gave self-preserving answers which avoided taking a stance, claiming a lack of knowledge on the subject of Palestine. Moreover, it was clear that the debate’s moderators did not want me to speak — after I first asked my question, they whispered among each other and did not call on me unless I was the sole audience member with a question. However, having no proof of this besides my own observation, I was unable to take action until a recording of a moderator admitting to this was acquired. This recording can be found on the Divest From Death campaign release and the transcript is as follows: (2)

“Behind the scenes, I’m on the elections committee, and I was able to warn the committee [of the divestment question] beforehand,” the SA member said. “Don’t write this down. I warned the committee, and I told everyone ‘this is what he’s planning on doing.’ So, the only reason [Ferrara] got to ask [his question] twice is because he was the only one to raise his hand, so we had to call on him.”

Ignoring the self-aware culpability in saying not to write down their “behind-the-scenes” actions, this is a clear example of SA representatives using their power to silence dissent to Zionist hegemony on BU’s campus. I am a student whose Jewish heritage makes me keenly concerned with the historical patterns of oppression and genocide wrought by imperialism and ethnostate construction. In fact, I am one of many such Jews who oppose the forced homogenization of the Jewish diaspora. The International Court of Justice has indicated that Israeli actions plausibly constitute genocide, and the true settler-colonial goals of Israel’s invasion are alarmingly clear to those paying attention — the Israeli government seeks the expansion of illegal Israeli settlements in Gaza and in the West Bank and the destruction of the Palestinian people and culture. While it is disheartening that Jewish voices are being centered above those of my far-too-often-silenced Palestinian colleagues, many of whom have lost family in the Israeli siege, I feel compelled to use my privilege as a white Jewish student to uplift the Palestinian cause. To that end, consider this a direct challenge to the SA — you have an obligation as student leaders to take a public stance and act upon instituting BDS.

It is idealistic and misguided to argue that the SA is a historically apolitical organization, and it is dangerous to posit that the SA must maintain political “neutrality” despite its massive influence. In 1985, the SA opposed the South African apartheid regime, supporting divestment from an institution that profited from its occupation. It was this effort — which Binghamton University administration resisted until they were dragged kicking and screaming away from putting profits over people — that gave the University Union’s Mandela Room its name and led to SUNY-wide divestment. The SA can legally act politically, within the bounds of its constitution, and should be encouraged to do so.

The modern BDS movement is founded upon the principles and strategies of these successful anti-apartheid campaigns. BDS is a non-violent strategy that utilizes the efficacy of economic pressure, and it is the best way for the student body to make our voice heard. In practice, the SA is not an apolitical institution. Thus, it is the duty of any SA representative who supports lasting peace and Palestinian sovereignty to make every possible effort to pass legislation that achieves transparency from the BU Foundation, and divestment from Israel and the military-industrial complex throughout the University.

To our current representatives on SA Congress and E-Board — now is the time to take action in support of divestment. Admittedly, as many of you will soon graduate, it would be easy to ride out the rest of your terms without taking a stance. If you feel this impulse, I must ask — why, then, did we elect you to your position in the first place? Far too often, student government is used as a means for students to cosplay as politicians — this cowardly practice shirks the responsibility to your community that you take on as elected representatives. You are our leaders and the people we turn to for support and guidance in times of hardship. Right now, you have the rare opportunity to make real progress — do not squander it just because the regressive University establishment opposes you.

Finally, to our incoming president, you told me that you would “lead by example” on BDS. Unfortunately, private, individual boycotting is not enough. I challenge you to emulate former SA President Fred Azcarate, who was a staunch leader in the aforementioned student movement for divestment from South Africa. You have the trust and respect of the students — now use it.

The urgency of this situation cannot be overstated. Over 33,000 Palestinians have been killed, and more than 80 percent of the Gazan population has been displaced. We are facing one of the worst humanitarian disasters of our generation — an egregious attempt at permanently solidifying over 100 years of imperialism — and the SA has the power to combat it. Your actions now will be remembered forever by the international community, by your friends, by your descendants and by yourselves.

John Ferrara is a guest columnist and a junior double-majoring in biology and Italian.

Views expressed in the opinions pages represent the opinions of the columnists. The only piece which represents the views of the Pipe Dream Editorial Board is the Staff Editorial.