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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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September 25, 2015

University Departments Sponsor Key BDS Advocates

University departments on five different college campuses have sponsored or co-sponsored anti-Israel programs promoting Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaigns so far during the 2015-16 academic year. The founding goals of the BDS movement and many of the strategies employed in BDS campaigns are anti-Semitic.  Such sponsorship creates the perception that specific university departments sanction these goals and strategies, lending an added degree of legitimacy and credibility to anti-Israel advocacy and campaigns that may alienate Jewish and pro-Israel students.omar-barghouti-berkeley-flyer

Since the 2012-13 academic year, there have been at least 99 anti-Israel events that received university department sponsorship, including 44 events which took place in the 2014-15 academic year.

On September 18, 2015, Omar Barghouti, a founding member of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI), spoke at the University of California-Berkeley. His presentation, which discussed the role which he believes academia should play in BDS, was sponsored by the campus Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) chapter and co-sponsored by eight different University departments, including the Center for Race and Gender, Asian American Studies, Native American Studies, Ethnic Studies, English, Chicano Studies, Near Eastern Studies, and African American Studies.

Barghouti, a founder of the movement who recently stated that he believes BDS is turning mainstream, has used Holocaust imagery to condemn Israel and its supporters in past presentations and interviews. He also has advocated for a one-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, along with the right of return for Palestinian refugees, claiming that one state would mean “equality for everyone–irrespective of identity, ethnicity, religion or any other attribute.”

Barghouti’s event is not unique for this year though, as the Center for Diversity and Inclusion at Michigan Technological University sponsored a similar presentation from Israeli anti-Zionist author Miko Peled on September 15, 2015. Over the years, Peled has made several statements about Jews, Israel, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that would not define “inclusion” or “diversity.” These statements include his allegation that Israel turned Gaza into an “enormous concentration camp” or more recently, when he stated that “neither Iran, Hezbollah or Hamas pose a threat to Israel, they pose a threat to the Israeli occupation and oppression of Palestinians.”

Other events which received department sponsorship this year include an upcoming performance by Remi Kanazi, an Organizing Committee member of the US Campaign for the Academic & Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI), at John Jay College. At John Jay, Kanazi’s performance is being co-sponsored by the Department of Gender Studies.

In addition, a September 16 presentation at Drew University by Bassem Tamimi, a Palestinian anti-Israel activist who has been arrested in Israel several times, was co-sponsored by the Middle East Studies Department; and a presentation from Vijay Prashad, the former Edward Said chair in American Studies at the American University of Beirut, was co-sponsored by the Ethics, Peace, and Global Affairs Program.

While not all advocates of BDS are anti-Semitic and may be driven by perceived legitimate criticism of certain Israeli policies toward Palestinians, many individuals engaged in BDS campaigns are driven by opposition to Israel’s very existence as a Jewish state. Because of this, it’s unfortunate that university departments would lend their sponsorship to events that can create an environment that is hostile to Jewish and pro-Israel students.

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January 30, 2015

BDS Passed at UC Davis, Other BDS Campaigns Also Occurring

Last night at the University of California, Davis, a divestment resolution was passed by The Associated Students, University of California (ASUCD) with a vote of 8-2-2. The resolution, which calls on the UC Board of Regents to divest from companies that allegedly “aid in the Israeli occupation of Palestine and illegal settlements in Palestinian territories,” targets specific corporations such as Caterpillar, G4S, Veolia Environment and Raytheon.

Students from Davis Divest celebrate after their BDS resolution was passed with an 8-2-2 vote.

Students from Davis Divest celebrate after their BDS resolution was passed with an 8-2-2 vote.

Several other Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions campaigns are simultaneously occurring on other college campuses across the U.S. This is consistent with our predictions in our “Anti-Israel Activity on Campus After Operation Protective Edge” report about upcoming challenges on campuses where student-groups are looking to convince their universities to divest from corporations that they believe perpetuate or profit from the Israeli occupation.

In some cases, new student groups have been founded to launch these campaigns and in other cases, established anti-Israel student groups such as Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), have taken the lead. In many cases, these student groups have attempted to form partnerships with other groups on their campuses to build broad coalitions and to latch onto other social justice causes. For example, these groups have sponsored events such as “From Ferguson to Palestine and the Wall,” which took place in mid-January at Stanford University and described as an opportunity to “discuss the specifics and connections between the movements for justice in Ferguson, the US-Mexico Border and Palestine.”

During the first semester of the current academic year, the UCLA SJP chapter was able to get “A Resolution to Divest from Corporations Engaged in Violence Against Palestinians” passed by their student government. The resolution, which was sponsored by 15 student organizations and endorsed by another 17, was voted on with an 8-2-2 margin. In addition, at the end of last semester, the UC Student-Workers Union, UAW Local 2865, voted in favor of a resolution urging the UC Board of Regents to join the BDS movement against Israel.

In addition to UC Davis, there are another six campuses in the U.S. that are currently engaged in BDS campaigns. Below is a rundown of their activities:  

  1. DePaul University – The DePaul Divest coalition submitted a request to the Fair Business Practices Committee (FBPC) to uphold a decision made last spring when DePaul students voted on a referendum in favor of divestment during Student Government elections. The companies that they were targeting for divestment included Hewlett-Packard, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Veolia, and Caterpillar, but the proposal was reportedly rejected by the FBPC.
  1. Northwestern University – A newly-founded group called NU Divest has been hosting pro-BDS events to inform their student-body about BDS and they are planning to submit a divestment resolution for vote to their student government at some point this semester.
  1. Stanford University – A new student group called Stanford Out of Occupied Palestine has been hosting pro-BDS events on campus and plans to submit a divestment resolution to their student government this semester.
  1. SDSU – A group calling itself SDSU Divest recently launched a divestment campaign and has 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.” The group is also hosting its “First Open Forum for Divestment” next Tuesday, February 3.
  1. University of South Florida – The USF SJP chapter recently put a billboard up near their campus that claims that “10,000 students were silenced” and calls on USF to divest from corporations allegedly profiting from the Israeli occupation. They claim that students were silenced because the university did not pursue divestment after they circulated a pro-BDS petition that reportedly received over 10,000 signatures.
  1. Ohio State University – A newly-founded group called OSU Divest started a divestment campaign on their campus and disseminated a press release which calls for OSU to divest from companies that allegedly “engage in or otherwise profit from policies that oppress and marginalize Palestinians.”

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