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Pro-BDS student appointed as University of California regent

Well, Sadia Saifuddin is having her 15 minutes of fame.

Today the regents of the University of California voted to appoint the Pakistani-American Berkeley student from Stockton to the governing body of the university for the 2014-1015 year. She is being hailed as the first Muslim regent. Her candidacy has been controversial because of her membership in the Muslim Student Association and Students for Justice in Palestine. She has been a campus leader in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel.

Despite opposition from StandWithUs, the Wiesenthal Center and other Jewish groups and individuals, the regents unanimously voted in favor of Saifuddin with only a single abstention.

The position is of limited power: while the grown-up regents are either ex officio politicians or are appointed by the governor for a 12-year term, the student regent is chosen by the other regents and sits on the board for only one year. Saifuddin has suggested that as regent she would be representing all students, with the implication that she wouldn’t use her new perch to push BDS.

But Saifuddin’s appointment has “symbolic importance,” said StandWithUs Education Director Roberta Seid. StandWithUs CEO Roz Rothstein added: “The choice of Sadia Saifuddin as student regent sends the wrong message and, in fact, defeats the Regents’ own goal of being more inclusive. Sadia instigated a bigoted campaign that purposely marginalized one group of students on campus,” referring to the effect of anti-Israel campaigns on Jewish students.

On the other hand, regent Bonnie Reiss asserted that the regents’ selection committee “would not have selected Sadia if we thought she was anti-Semitic.”

All of which raises the fundamental issue: is the BDS view of Israel a respectable position, one that a decent person could hold? Are BDS activists the sort of people who should have any stature or influence in society?


Perhaps a naïve person could be forgiven for (1) believing that the BDS movement simply wants to “end the occupation,” and (2) being in favor of that. After all, if you don’t know anything about politics or history—about why Israel controls much of the West Bank, about how we got to where we are today—you might believe the sole issue is Palestinian human rights and Palestinian refugees, both trampled daily by Israelis, because Zionism is essentially racist.

But believing this requires a considerable dose of ignorance and credulity, which the Palestinians and their allies have been happy to take advantage of. As Middle East Forum President Daniel Pipes has marveled: “Who, a century back, would have imagined Jews making the better soldiers and Arabs the better publicists?”

Without recapitulating the entire history of the conflict in detail, the Jews have lived in Palestine/the Land of Israel since ancient times. The Land was conquered by the Romans; then by the Arabs; then by the Turks; then by the British. The British favored reestablishing a Jewish national home in Palestine. This was confirmed by the League of Nations. In 1947 the United Nations supported a plan to partition the Land into a Jewish state and an Arab state. The Arabs rejected the plan and launched a war to prevent the establishment of the Jewish state. Jordan occupied the West Bank; Egypt occupied Gaza.

There could have been a Palestinian state since 1948, but the Arabs, including the Palestinians, rejected it.

Several hundred thousand Palestinian Arabs fled the fighting, largely because their own leaders urged them to get out of the way so that the Arab armies could kill the Jews more efficiently. (A somewhat larger number of Jews were subsequently forced out of Arab countries; most of them were absorbed by Israel.) Obviously, after the armistice in 1949 the Arabs were not welcome back in the Jewish state. Nor were they welcomed in any Arab state (except Jordan).

The assertion that there are now some five million Palestinian refugees who have a “right of return” is based on the claim that, contrary to international law, Palestinian refugee status is inherited. For every other refugee population, the children of the refugees are citizens of the country where they’re born. Every other refugee population shrinks over time. Only the number of Palestinian “refugees” grows.

Still, the Palestinian “refugee” problem could be solved by the “two-state solution.” This would mean that the Palestinian “refugees” would go to the Palestinian state. But a key demand of the Palestinians, and of the BDS movement, is that Palestinian “refugees” must be settled in the Jewish state. (At the same time the Palestinian leadership insists that no Jews will be allowed to live in the Palestinian state.)

The influx of millions of Arabs into Israel would doom Israel as the state of the Jewish people. When the Palestinians say they favor a “two-state solution,” they mean two Arab states, in which the Jews will once again be a minority.

There is no reasonable explanation for why the Jews should not be allowed to have a country, as other peoples do. The intense hostility which focuses on denying sovereignty to the Jews, to the exclusion of all other nation-states, has no reasonable explanation short of anti-Semitism.

This is the sin of the BDS movement. Saifuddin knows or should know it.

So no, Saifuddin should not have been honored with a place at the regents’ table. No unrepentant BDS leader should have any position of prestige, any more than an unrepentant KKK member should.

Saifuddin immediately becomes a non-voting regent-designate, until she takes her seat next year. No doubt, critics will be keeping an eye on her.

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