Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Why those opposed to BDS should oppose Canary Mission

And on a far less pleasant topic than the previous post, a website called Canary Mission has just gone live. This website has published information about a number of students about their support for the BDS movement (Boycott, Divest, and Sanctions - directed at the state of Israel). Why have they done it?

From their "About" page:
  • ....We pursue our mission by presenting the actions of hate-fomenting individuals and organizations - clearing up the ambiguity that surrounds their activities on campus and beyond. Our hope is that by shining a bright light on radicals and their activities, the public can clarify for themselves the nature of such affiliations.
  • ....We believe in the right of employers to know which potentially threatening organizations prospective employees were affiliated with during their time on campus. 
  • Canary Mission provides freely available material gathered from completely accessible and unrestricted sources. We have chosen to collate this information into a concise and unambiguous format for the consumption of prospective employers and the public at large.
From this mission statement we can see that the purpose of the website is not merely to publicize individuals (almost all of whom are students) who support the BDS movement, but to threaten their future livelihood.

I am no fan of BDS or SJP (Students for Justice in Palestine), but I do not believe that students who support BDS should have their livelihoods threatened by this biased, very one-sided presentation. This website reduces people to one particular political viewpoint that they hold, and assumes that because of that viewpoint, they could be dangerous for future employers to hire. Remember Senator Joseph McCarthy? This is what he did. He smeared people as communists (none of whom he was able to prove were communists) and called for their dismissal from U.S. government service.

In almost all cases, people's political views and activism are totally irrelevant to their employment. For example, if a Ph.D. student in chemistry supports BDS, is that a reason that he or she should be turned down for a job in a chemistry lab?

Those of us who oppose BDS should not engage in McCarthyite tactics against those we disagree with politically. We should take on BDS as a political movement, and argue against it and organize against it based on why we think BDS proposals are wrong. We should never engage in ad hominem attacks on individuals, nor should we threaten people who advocate BDS in any way. The United States is a democratic country, and we should seek to defeat political ideas and actions that we disagree with through democratic means.

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