On May 23rd, UCLA’s Debate Union presented “A Spirited Debate on BDS.” Tensions ran high, as computer science professor, Judea Pearl, debated English and comparative literature, Saree Makdisi on the motion: “This House Believes that BDS is Not Moral.”
For those unfamiliar with the acronym, BDS stands for “Boycott, Divest, Sanctions” and has long been a controversial issue on college campuses throughout the United States. Proponents claim that sanctions hold Israel accountable for its occupation, racism and human rights abuses, while those against it claim that the proposition is a double-standard, not holding Palestinian Authority and other governing entities accountable for terrorism.
Students Joseph Kahn, a second year political science major, and Philippe Assouline, a PhD candidate in international relations, spoke in favor of the motion alongside Professor Pearl. Against the motion were students Ahmad Azzawi, a sociology major, and Wali Kamal, an applied mathematics major.
The debate took place in Franz Hall 1178 and was followed by a reception and an afterword by communications professor, Paul Von Blum.
During the debate, when asked about the right of return of Palestinians to the Jewish State, Professor Makdisi asked, “What’s so bad about [Jews] being a minority?” This question may contradict the notion of the legitimacy of a “Jewish state” of Israel, something Jewish intellectuals have long regarded as anti-Semitic.
During Blum’s afterword, he spoke of his sympathy for the Palestinian people in their plight under Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s “racist policies.” He implied that he would endorse BDS if it were not for the progressive movements in Israel that care for the Palestinian people.