To the Editors:
The UMass Graduate Employees Union (United Automobile Workers affiliated) is now currently debating and voting on a resolution as to whether their organization should join the “BDS movement,” a campaign to isolate and stigmatize Israel based on a one-sided and radical perspective on the Middle East conflict.
It is disappointing to us as faculty that the University of Massachusetts graduate students are considering this misguided and polarizing action. These resolutions, which blame one side entirely for a complex historical conflict, do not promote peace and dialogue between Palestinians and Israelis. They encourage polarization by stigmatizing any engagement or affiliation with Israel.
We encourage open-minded graduate students at UMass Amherst to reject this measure and to vote “no.” Graduate students, like faculty, administrators or anyone else, certainly have the right to their political opinions and should express them. Like-minded graduate students are free to start “graduate students for Palestine” or “graduate students for Israel” or “graduate students for human rights everywhere” or any other group, just as individual faculty can sign whatever petition or join whatever group they like.
But BDS resolutions such as the one currently up for vote do something else. They impose one partisan view of a complex situation on the whole organization as a kind of “loyalty oath.” To be a member of the graduate student union, this resolution suggests, that one must stand against Israel. To anyone who holds a different view, it sends the message that you are not welcome here. Jews are welcome so long as they reject the Jewish state in the way the BDS movement does (or at least keep quiet about it). In its effect, if not its intent, it is thus seen as discriminatory. This was recognized by UAW International Board when, in December 2015, they clearly rejected a similar measure floated by University of California at Los Angeles graduate students.
In the wake of that decision, it is frankly shocking that UMass students have put this up for a union vote. We hope that UMass graduate students show the good judgment to reject this measure.
Prof. Jay Berkovitz, Judaic & near eastern studies department
Prof. Daniel Gordon, history department
Prof. Eyal Markman, mathematics & statistics department
Prof. Hava Siegelmann, college of info & computer sciences department
Prof. Jonathan Skolnik, languages, literatures & cultures department
Prof. James Young, English, Judaic & near eastern studies department