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November 24, 2015

Campus Groups Exploit Domestic Social Issues to Attack Israel

Anti-Israel groups on university and college campuses continue to link the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to issues of police brutality and discrimination in the U.S., in an attempt to gain broader support for Boy­cott, Divest­ment, and Sanc­tions (BDS) cam­paigns and other anti-Israel initiatives from minority student groups. By employing this tactic, groups such as Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) link domestic issues to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, thereby couching hostility towards Israel in social justice terms and making Israel look like an aggressor.students-for-justice-in-palestine-suhad-khatib

Below are a few examples of these events and actions from the 2015-2016 academic year:

  • Linda Sarsour, the National Advocacy Director for the National Network for Arab American Communities, spoke at Rutgers University on Monday, November 23, 2015 for an event titled “Solidarity: Unifying Communities of Color to Break Cycles of Oppression.” According to the organizers of the event, it was held to focus on a number of issues, including “mass incarceration, mass criminalization, structural violence, apartheid, racism, state-sanctioned violence, police brutality, tear gassed for fighting for freedom and equality- a reality for Palestinians living under occupation, and for Blacks fighting an unjust system here in the United States.”
  • Suhad Khatib, a member of the St. Louis Palestine Solidarity Committee (PSC), spoke via Skype at San Diego State University on Thursday, November 19 for an event titled “Resisting Oppression from Mizzou to Gaza.” In her presentation, she stated that African-Americans, Palestinians, Mexicans, and oppressed people are connected, claiming that “Ferguson taught me more about my connection with Palestine than anything else because you understand racism and systematic racism. We as Palestinians are brainwashed to think we are white when we are people of color and are oppressed.”
  • The Marquette University SJP chapter sponsored a panel discussion titled “Outlets 4 Activism,” which featured Ali Abunimah, founder and executive director of the anti-Israel Electronic Intifada blog, as a panelist. Other panelists at the event included Nate Hamilton, an activist from the #BlackLivesMatter movement and brother of Dontre Hamilton; and Oscar Hernandez, an immigrant rights activist who works as an Organizer for We Own the DREAM. The event was co-sponsored by Black Student Council (BSC), Youth Empowered in the Struggle (Y.E.S), the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP).
  • Many SJP chapters and other anti-Israel groups across the country co-sponsored rallies and demonstrations held in solidarity with African-American students at the University of Missouri. At one of the demonstrations, which took place at Loyola University on Wednesday, November 11, Nadine Darwish, a member of Loyola SJP and Loyola Divest, stated “Now is the time to hold administrators accountable…No longer can we remain complacent as students and student activists. We have to put an end to the policies and practices that contribute to the systemic traumatization of students of color on campus, particularly Black students and my peers in SJP.”

These events are a continuation of what occurred during the previous academic year, when anti-Israel groups worked to link the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to Ferguson, Missouri and when SJP and its partners began to publicly back different movements and offer support to various groups, while broadening support for BDS and other anti-Israel initiatives.

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February 27, 2015

College Campuses Continue To Face Divisive BDS Campaigns

Throughout the 2014-15 academic year, a consortium of student groups have initiated campaigns on campus calling on their schools to divest from companies that they believe either profit from or aid in the Israeli occupation.BDS-campus-anti-israel

The efforts are part of the larger Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, a global effort to isolate and punish Israel because of its policies toward the Palestinians. While supporters of the BDS movement claim to embrace the tactic as a nonviolent way to pressure Israel into negotiations, one of the principal components of the campaign calls for a full and complete right of return for Palestinians which would result in a non-Jewish majority and erase the Jewish character of Israel. The BDS campaign is clearly a biased effort to demonize Israel and place the entire onus of the conflict on the Jewish state.

While these initiatives have failed to have any practical outcomes in terms of university investment policies, it cannot be ignored that some have had a divisive and corrosive effect on the campus climate. On some campuses, divestment initiatives have left Jewish and pro-Israel students feeling beleaguered and isolated. Other students report a tense atmosphere on campuses where students and student leaders are pressured to “choose sides” on a conflict they know little about.

So far this academic year, nearly 300 anti-Israel events have been scheduled, with about 40% of them focused on BDS campaigns. In addition, BDS resolutions have been voted in student government on or initiated by anti-Israel student groups on 11 campuses.

In the coming weeks, addition BDS activity will be coordinated on campus as part of the eleventh annual Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW), which began on February 23 and is scheduled to run through March. IAW Events have been scheduled on at least 25 college campuses in the U.S. thus far. Some campuses are scheduled to host presentations on topics such as the false Gaza-Ferguson analogy and others will set up mock “apartheid walls” on their campuses, and/or distribute mock “eviction notices.”

Below is a list of current campus BDS campaigns and resolutions which have been voted on:

  • Northwestern University – The Northwestern University student government passed a divestment resolution submitted by the student-group NU Divest on Wednesday, February 18, 2015. The vote was 24-22-3.
  • Stanford University – The Undergraduate Senate of Stanford University passed a BDS resolution submitted by the student-group Stanford out of Occupied Palestine on Tuesday, February 17, 2015. The vote on the resolution was 10-4-1.
  • University of Toledo – The University of Toledo student government ruled that a BDS resolution submitted by the campus Students for Justice in Palestine chapter was unconstitutional on Tuesday, February 17, 2015.
  • University of California-Davis – The UC Davis Student Senate passed a divestment resolution that was submitted by the campus Students for Justice in Palestine chapter on Thursday, January 29, 2015. The vote on the resolution was 8-2-2, but it was challenged and overturned by the student-led Court of Associated Students, which is beyond the jurisdiction of the Student Senate.
  • United Auto Workers (UAW) 2865 – The University of California Student Workers Union (UAW 2865) endorsed a divestment resolution on Thursday, December 4, 2014 calling on the UC Board of Regents to divest from companies that are allegedly profiting from or aiding in the Israeli occupation. The resolution also called for an end of U.S. aid to Israel and for UAW International to divest from the same corporations. The vote was 1411-749.
  • University of California-Los Angeles – On Tuesday, November 18, 2014, the UCLA student government endorsed a divestment resolution that was submitted by the campus Students for Justice in Palestine chapter. The vote on the resolution was 8-2-2.

Below is a list of BDS campaigns currently taking place:

  • University of Michigan –  The student-group Students Allied for Freedom and Equality (SAFE) at the University of Michigan announced plans to initiate a divestment campaign called “#UMDivest” on February 18, 2015. To go along with this, they are hosting a BDS symposium to discuss the campaign, read the resolution, and answer questions from the audience.
  • University of Houston – The University of Houston Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) chapter announced plans to initiate a BDS campaign on February 12, 2015. The group sponsored a pro-BDS demonstration on their campus that day where the campaign was announced.
  • Ohio State University – A newly-founded group called Ohio State University Divest (OSU Divest) started a divestment campaign on January 29, 2015. They announced their campaign through a press release and state that they were calling on the University to divest from companies that allegedly harm and/or profit from harming Palestinians.
  • San Diego State University – SDSU Students for Justice in Palestine launched a divestment campaign and new group called San Diego State University Divest (SDSU Divest) on January 25, 2015. To go along with the campaign, they have been circulating a petition to current students, alumni, faculty, staff, and community members that calls for divestment “from companies that profit from violence against the Palestinians.”
  • University of Southern Florida – The University of Southern Florida SJP chapter put up a pro-BDS billboard near campus to claim that 10,000 students were silenced because BDS was not enforced by the University Administration after the group allegedly collected 10,000 signatures calling on the university to divest from corporations that allegedly profit from the Israeli occupation.

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April 24, 2014

Momentum For Divestment On California Campuses Falters

Despite the best efforts of anti-Israel student groups, divestment resolutions debated on two California campuses failed last night by wide margins, while a third passed by just one vote.sdsu divest logo

Student Senators at San Diego State University (3 Yes-16 No-3 Abstentions) and the University of California, Santa Barbara (8-16-0), rejected resolutions that called on their respective universities to withdraw investments from multinational companies that work with Israel. A similar resolution did, however, pass by a razor-thin margin at the University of California, Riverside.

The results of the Riverside resolution, though not favorable, are telling in and of themselves about the state of support for BDS on American college campuses. The final vote was 8-7 and that was only after the Senators voted to conduct a closed vote so that the representatives would not have to openly declare their anti-Israel views.

Moreover, it appears that the president of the Senate did not support the resolution. Based on live-tweeting from the event, it seems that the president, Sai Patadia, asked those in favor of divestment to explain why it was legitimate to single out Israel for punishment, an issue often cited by the pro-Israel community. [Last November, Patadia also tried to resolve an issue that had arisen when a divestment resolution on campus was introduced in stealth, stripping pro-Israel students of the opportunity to present an alternative viewpoint.  This time around, Patadia encouraged Students for Justice in Palestine to reach out to the pro-Israel community and let them know when the resolution was drafted, according to an article in the campus newspaper.]

UC Riverside and UC Santa Barbara have both dealt with similar resolutions before. A resolution several months ago was voted down and last March, a resolution passed but was then rescinded a month later. At UC Santa Barbara, a vote last April failed 10-11-1 whereupon pro-Israel students took it upon themselves to run for Student Senate, presumably in the hopes of avoiding a similarly close vote this year.

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