The Teaching Moment

River to sea BDSI am often asked why I am so offended by the BDS movement, and why I abhor it so much.

The simple truth is that I remember what it was like to be in university, to work two jobs while I was training and playing football, and taking a full course load. I remember waking up at 5am to hit the gym and then go to captain’s practices, being “voluntold” I was going be the teams representative on the student government and then fitting in some schoolwork here and there.

My teammates always had my back, but a couple of times some racist asshats would ask me stupid questions like why didn’t I join the “Indian student government” and why didn’t I join more “Indian clubs” as if those were the only places I belonged. Odd are they couldn’t see how that was perpetuation of segregation, and therefore racist.

I wasn’t really overly political in university to be honest, I was more concerned with playing sports and making enough money to stay in school. The very few times I involved myself in anything political. Like the time I asked a feminist club to take down some posters they made of vaginas with foul language on them, that were posted where children could see them in the athletic wing (we ran kids sports camps on the weekends), and when they refused to put them in other parts of the school, I simply drew penises on all the posters and they then took them down themselves (yes I got into trouble for it, and yes I would have done it again!). And the time when the asshats put up an apartheid wall between me and my locker room that would have meant walking around the entire building instead of a three minute walk. I asked them nicely three times to move the wall, and then when they refused and worse yet, were rude to me and lectured me about oppression (seriously some rich white kids lectured an Indian about oppression), I simply removed it from my way in a manner that necessitated repairs. Both times I experienced what I call “the tyranny of asshattery” – which means some people took what could have been something worth dialogue, and instead tried to force Ryan Bellerose to accept their point of view with no discussion. Ryan does not like this form of discourse. These were not teaching moments, until I turned them into teaching moments.

I guess that why when I read what happened to the student at UCLA who was recently treated very poorly because she is Jewish, I got angry enough to write this. You see I believe that BDS is not only something that is unjustifiable, but is something that any decent person should fight. If I went to you and said “Boycott all __________ (insert minority here) academics, products and services and even companies who even do business with ______ (said minority) because some members of that minority are bad people who have done bad things,” I would be laughed at and rightfully so. Good god, imagine if I said, “Boycott all Muslim academics, all companies owned by Muslims, all inventions by Muslims and anyone who does business with Muslims, because the majority of terrorist attacks are conducted by Muslims.” You would literally have riots. Boycotts of entire ethnicities, religions or countries is wrong. People point to the boycott of South Africa, as a moral boycott, but Israel’s boycott isn’t even based on anything factual. In fact the organizers of BDS have admitted that their primary justification for the boycott, the “occupation,” really means nothing because even if it ended tomorrow, BDS would not. How then can anyone believe that this is really about that?

They talk about oppression and marginalization of Arabs in Israel being reasons they want to boycott Israel, yet they have no issue with doing those things to Jewish students. They use language designed to incite hatred and anger against Jewish people. They use imagery that is offensive in the extreme and excuse it by hiding behind the veneer of human rights. They ignore that at every university where BDS has even been discussed, antisemitic incidents rose. Because I think that is their actual goal – inciting hatred against Jewish people.

The hypocrisy in their entire position is inherent. They talk about “asymmetrical power imbalance”, marginalization and oppression in the same breath as demanding that Israeli musicians and academics should be silenced with no opportunity to defend themselves or their people. They openly say things like “Supporting Israel means you are a terrible person.” Can you even imagine if I said “Supporting Arab Muslim countries (the world’s most egregious offenders against human rights by the way) makes you a terrible person.”?

They feel comfortable now they say things in public that would have been unacceptable five years ago. At UCLA one of them came right out and said “For some reason, I’m not 100 percent comfortable. I don’t know why, I’ll go through her application again. I’ve been going through it constantly, but I definitely can see that she’s qualified for sure.” If you are sure she is qualified why would you be going through her application “constantly”? Well I will tell you, because she is Jewish and you are a bigot who is looking for any excuse to deny her the position for which you yourself just admitted she is “for sure” qualified. This was considered acceptable in 2015? You support a political position that you assume she won’t share, so you put that ahead of doing what is right and just?

If UCLA wants to turn this into a teaching moment they need to ask all the people who were involved in this bigotry, to step down immediately, take some sensitivity and ethics courses and apologize to the girl they marginalized. Teaching moments are not always pleasant; sometimes they are painful, but this needs to be a teaching moment, for BDS supporters and other bigots everywhere.


Ryan Bellerose

A member of the indigenous Metis people, Ryan grew up in the far north of Alberta, Canada with no power nor running water. In his free time, Ryan plays Canadian Rules Football, reads books, does advocacy work for indigenous people and does not live in an Igloo.