NYU Realize Israel hosted Jerusalem Post chief political correspondent Gil Hoffman on Monday to talk about Israeli politics and the the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement on and off college campuses.
BDS is a global movement that encourages boycotts and divestment from Israeli companies, as well as the placement of sanctions on Israel until the country restores rights to Palestinians in the area it now occupies.
During his speech, which he described as a “pep talk,” Hoffman denounced BDS, calling it a fringe movement with no real impact on Israel. To argue his point, Hoffman recalled his experiences working with economists that assess the strength of Israel’s economy.
“Normally, I’m the one briefing [credit agencies] for an hour-and-a-half on Israeli politics and its impact on the economy and then I ask them one question: What has been the impact of the BDS movement on the Israeli economy?” Hoffman said to the audience of approximately 15 people. “They study that every year just in case it changed and every year they come to the conclusion that the economic impact of BDS on Israel is nil. These are not Zionists, these are cold, British economists looking at hard facts and figures.”
Hoffman went on to say that the only impact of BDS on college campuses was spreading fear among Jewish students who support Israel.
“The only impact that BDS has is it scares Jewish kids to identify as Jewish,” Hoffman said. “That is all they’ve ever accomplished. They’re here for you. They’re here to make your life bad. Realize that you’re in a bubble here at a university and then you’re going to go on to the real world somewhere between two and four years, and then that’s it.”
At the event, members of Realize Israel raised frustrations with a lack of representation in student government and the recent BDS resolution that was presented to the Student Government Assembly on Nov. 2. If passed, the resolution would call for NYU to withdraw investments from companies tied to the mistreatment of Palestinians.
Realize Israel President Adela Cojab, a senior in Gallatin, lamented that Jewish students for Israel have not made their views clear on campus, which has resulted in a perceived increase in opposition to Israel.
“We’ve taken a backseat against speaking out and now it’s gotten to a point that if the balance of voice, like, if everyone had a voice, let’s say 94 percent Jewish community for Israel and 2 percent Jewish community against Israel, because we haven’t spoken up now it looks like it’s a 50/50 or 60/40 balance,” Cojab said.
Realize Israel member and Gallatin junior Lauren Sobel saw Hoffman’s message for Realize Israel as empowering.
“He preaches to create understanding between people through love, not hate. That’s the message I took away from it,” Sobel said. “Fight with the facts and positivity. Don’t succumb to hatred and negativity for other people.”
While Vice President of Realize Israel and Stern senior Ari Spitzer did enjoy hearing Hoffman’s perspectives on BDS for the organization, he felt that the speech veered away from Israeli politics.
“I think he gave a lot of interesting advice, but for me personally, we wanted to bring him in to talk about the high level, deep understanding of internal Israeli politics and affairs, which he kind of rushed through at the end, and the crowd kind of wanted more of the pep talk part,” Spitzer said.
Despite the club members’ frustration with the impact of the BDS movement at NYU, Hoffman continued to encourage students to spread love and positivity.
“My advice is what most of the experts said and it makes a lot of sense to me, which is to focus on the people in between the unconverted and unconvertible, and my advice is to smother them with love,” Hoffman said.
Email Meghna Maharishi at [email protected].