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March 21, 2014

Divestment Resolutions Abound on U.S. Campuses This Week

In the wake of Israeli Apartheid Week, which recently wrapped up after taking place on several dozen college campuses during the month of March, divestment resolutions were introduced on four U.S. college campuses this loyoladivestweek.

Here’s a rundown on the resolutions – two of which passed, two of which were held up – that were introduced this week:

Loyola University – Although the Loyola Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) chapter had disseminated a petition urging the university to withdraw investments in five corporations, the campus was blindsided by the surprise introduction of a divestment resolution in  the Student Senate on Tuesday. The resolution, which passed by a vote of 26-0-2, had not previously been announced and students who sought to oppose it were not given the opportunity to express their perspective.

Arizona State University – Also on Tuesday, a resolution calling on Arizona State University (ASU) to divest from Caterpillar, which provides heavy machinery to the Israeli army, was tabled by the Undergraduate Student Government. The bill was introduced by the group “ASU Divest from Caterpillar Inc.” and it will reportedly be amended and reintroduced by ASU’s SJP chapter in the near future.

University of Michigan – The Central Student Government (CSG) was scheduled to vote on a divestment resolution initiated by the anti-Israel student group “Students Allied for Freedom and Equality” (SAFE). The meeting attracted an overwhelmingly large number of students and as the room became overcrowded, the meeting was moved to another location on campus where an announcement was made that the voting session would be postponed indefinitely. According to the Michigan Daily, the crowd then “pressed up against the stanchions dividing the room and chanted ‘Divest’ at the CSG members for several minutes.” In addition, more than 100 students gathered outside of the Michigan Union to rally in favor of divestment.

The following day, members of SAFE declared that they were conducting a “sit-in” near the student government offices until the CSG would hold a vote on their divestment resolution. The students  took over the space and refused to leave until they were told that they would be arrested. Reports on Twitter indicate that members of the group are currently reconvening for the third day of their “sit-in.”

San Diego State University – San Diego State University’s (SDSU) Student Diversity Commission passed a divestment resolution by a vote of 11-6-2 on March 19. The resolution now will reportedly be brought before the university council.

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March 6, 2014

Protestors At Cal Poly Pomona Prevent Israeli Soldiers From Speaking

Students at California State Polytechnic University – Pomona shouted down a group of Israeli soldiers who were invited to speak on their campus by Hillel on February 27,

The soldiers, who had introduced themselves and explained that they would be delivering personal stories about their lives and experiences while serving in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), were interrupted by student protesters who shouted “baby killers,” “rapists,” and “terrorists.”

Even before the soldiers began their presentations, students in the audience covered their mouths with black tape and held posters that made various allegations concerning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Shortly after the soldiers started to introduce themselves, the protesters persistently shouted in such a way that other students in the room were unable to hear what was being said.

Although some protesters were asked to leave the room, attendees had difficulty hearing the soldiers’ presentations. Doron Feuer, the President of the Cal Poly Pomona’s Hillel, told the campus newspaper, The Poly Post that, “It was extremely difficult for people to hear what the soldiers were saying, even for the people sitting at the very front…What was supposed to be an educational event rapidly became a disruptive and chaotic experience.”

One of the soldiers also spoke to the campus newspaper and claimed he felt insulted by the protesters’ tactics, stating, “It was supposed to be a civilized dialogue, but I heard hatred and I saw hatred in their eyes…We came to talk about peace.”

ADL in Los Angeles provided resources to the Hillel on the Cal Poly Pomona campus and continues to work closely with the Jewish Federation of the Greater San Gabriel & Pomona Valleys on the community’s response to this incident. ADL is equipped with a broad range of preventive and reactive programs and resources to address the challenges of hate on campus. We work to empower students, faculty, staff and community members to stand up on their campuses and in their communities and effect change.

Student efforts to express opposition to speakers or events on campus are generally part of a healthy campus environment fostering a free exchange of ideas. But are certain disruptive tactics commonly used by anti-Israel activists that are anathema to those ideals.

While anti-Israel protests may be protected by free speech rights, the protests cannot disrupt normal school functions, obstruct access to school buildings, create pervasive, severe, or persistent harassment, or physically intimidate or threaten individuals. When the protests violate these parameters, students should alert the university and ask administrators to take action.

These disruption tactics vary and can range from interrupting the speaker and preventing him or her from speaking to silent protests. For example, on March 3, 2014, Israeli Professor Josef Olmert faced silent protesters at San Diego State University as he delivered a guest lecture to a Political Science class.

The students stood in the back of the classroom and held signs with provocative statements such as, “Zionism = Racism,” “SDSU DIVEST,” “Boycott Israel.” After Olmert’s presentation, the students continued to protest outside of the lecture hall.

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February 27, 2014

Eviction Notices At Northeastern Kick-Off Israeli Apartheid Week

Update: February 27 – Yesterday, members of the University of North Carolina (UNC) SJP chapter, distributed hundreds of mock eviction notices in residence halls on the UNC campus. Just like at Northeastern University, where the students began to use the hashtag “#BostonMockEviction” on Twitter after posting them, at UNC they began to use “#UNCMockEviction.” The mock eviction notices were also used to promote UNC’s Israeli Apartheid Week, scheduled to take place on the campus from March 3 to March 7.

Mock eviction notices were slid under residence hall doors of many students at Northeastern University earlier this week. Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) took responsibility for the action and claimed that these notices were posted to kick off Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW), which is taking place this week on dozens of college campuses across the United States.northeastern-iaw-eviction-2014-sjp

The notices at Northeastern stated that the affected dorm rooms would be demolished in three days and that “eviction notices are routinely given to Palestinian families living under oppressive Israeli occupation for no reason other than their ethnic background…to cleanse the region of its Arab population, and create space for settlements.” In reality, some Palestinians in the West Bank receive eviction notices if their homes were built ille­gally or need to be demol­ished because of Israeli secu­rity con­cerns, not because of the residents’ “ethnic background.”

Language in the notice echoed many of the themes of IAW, including allegations of Israeli racism and apartheid, calls for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaigns against Israel, and claims that Israel is committing war crimes such as ethnic cleansing against the Palestinian people. Northeastern SJP later issued a comment on Twitter that “some students don’t like facing uncomfortable facts about Israeli apartheid.”northeastern-iaw-eviction-2014-2-sjp

The notice, various versions of which have been distributed at several other college campuses in recent years, was also made to appear as if it was issued by a municipal court, making the threat of demolition seem more real to the students who received them.

In the past year, anti-Israel stu­dent groups at the fol­low­ing uni­ver­si­ties have cir­cu­lated mock evic­tion notices:

  • University of Michigan, December 2013 – Over 1,000 students received mock eviction notices posted by members of the student group “Students Allied for Freedom and Equality” at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.  These notices claimed that Israel evicts Palestinians from their homes for the purpose of “mak[ing] life so miserable for the Arabs that they leave.”
  • Rut­gers Uni­ver­sity, Octo­ber 2013 – Stu­dents from the Rutgers-New Brunswick SJP chap­ter posted mock evic­tion notices in res­i­dence halls to “edu­cate” stu­dents about the expe­ri­ence for some Pales­tini­ans whose homes are demol­ished. Text on the mock evic­tion notices read, “Your suite is sched­uled for demo­li­tion in the next three days… If you do not vacate the premise within this time frame, we reserve the right to destroy all remain­ing belongings…This may seem like unre­al­is­ti­cally harsh treat­ment, but this is the actual state of affairs in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip.”
  • San Diego State Uni­ver­sity, March 2013 – Mock evic­tion notices were posted on stu­dents’ res­i­dence hall room doors by mem­bers of the SDSU SJP chap­ter. The notices, which claimed that “$30 bil­lion US tax dol­lars have been used to fund Israeli apartheid in the past decade,” were meant to raise aware­ness over Israel’s alleged human rights vio­la­tions against Palestinians.

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