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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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December 11, 2013

University Of Michigan Latest School To Be Hit With Anti-Israel Mock Eviction Notices

Mock eviction notices were recently distributed at the University of Michigan by the pro-Palestinian student group “Students Allied for Freedom and Equality.” More than one thousand students reportedly received the notices on their residence hall room doors on Tuesday, December 10, which warned them that their dormitory would be demolished by December 13.michigan-mock-eviction-notice

The notices were made to appear as though they were issued by the university’s Department of Housing and were designed to mimic the eviction notices received by some Palestinians in the West Bank if their homes were built illegally or needed to be demolished because of Israeli security concerns. The notices, however, claim that Israel evicts Palestinians from their homes for the purpose of “mak[ing] life so miserable for Arabs that they leave.”

Students affiliated with SAFE also published a “Viewpoint” piece on the university newspaper’s Web site calling for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaigns against Israel and claiming that the eviction notices are a “tool of political satire.”

These notices, which have appeared on at least a half a dozen other campuses in the past few years, have previously made some students feel threatened or intimidated.

For example, after students at Rutgers University received the notices in October 2013, Esther Reed, the rabbi of Rutgers’s Hillel was quoted in the campus newspaper saying, “students were made to feel that they were not safe in their residence halls.” Similarly, at Florida Atlantic University, students reported feeling confused or scared after receiving eviction notices in March 2012, according to Palm Beach County Commissioner Steven Abrams, who spoke to a local newspaper shortly after the incident occurred.

Other students have criticized the tactic for failing to create dialogue. At Yale University, students wrote an op-ed in the campus newspaper and called the mock eviction notices “offensive,” claiming that there was not “even the faintest attempt at building a constructive dialogue.”  

In the past few years, anti-Israel student groups at the following universities have circulated mock eviction notices on campus:

  • Rutgers University, October 2013 – Students from the Rutgers-New Brunswick SJP chapter posted mock eviction notices in residence halls throughout the campus 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.
  • Harvard University, March 2013 – Members of the Harvard Palestine Solidarity Committee posted mock eviction notices on students’ doors in freshman and upper class residence halls. The notices, which warned students that their residence hall rooms were “scheduled for demolition in the next three days” were posted in order to publicize “Israel Apartheid Week” on campus and to raise awareness about Israel’s policies.
  • Florida Atlantic University, March 2012 – Mock eviction notices were posted on nearly 200 student residence hall rooms. The action, organized by the FAU SJP chapter, warned students that their rooms were being demolished and that “anyone left inside is not our responsibility.” This episode attracted significant ire because the flier contained the official seal of university’s Hous­ing and Res­i­den­tial Life Department.  
  • University of Chicago, May 2011 – Over 200 mock eviction notices were distributed by the SJP chapter on campus. The notices stated that affected students would have their rooms demolished and that if they did not vacate them, “we reserve the right to destroy your housing unit. We do not maintain responsibility for anyone remaining inside.” 
  • Yale University, April 2011 – Mock eviction notices were distributed by SJP at Yale University to criticize “the actions of the Israeli state” and to promote the group’s upcoming events.

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March 1, 2012

Attempts to Silence Pro-Israel Voices on Campus Continue

Recent disruptions of pro-Israel events on campus illustrate the continuing use of tactics intended to silence Israeli voices and the expression of pro-Israel views.
On February 27, Students from the University of California – Davis chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) staged a walkout during a presentation by former soldiers who served in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). One student defiantly stood up and shouted obscenities at the speakers, claiming that Israel has “turned the land of Palestine into a land of prostitutes and rapists and child molesters,” and harassed the speaker, asking him, “How many women have you raped? How many children have you raped? You are a child molester.” During his outburst, the heckler defended his actions as a free speech right yet noted, “My only purpose today is that this event is shut down,” an obviously ironic use of free speech rights.  
SAFE representatives prior to Feb. 21 walkout
A disruption also occurred the next day at UCLA when dozens of SJP members with duct tape fastened to their mouths and signs reading “Silenced” walked out in the middle of an IDF soldier’s presentation.
On February 21, representatives from SAFE (Students Allied for Freedom and Equality), an anti-Israel group at Michigan State University, staged a similar walkout of a speech featuring former Israeli soldiers.
While the soldiers were able to finish their presentations in all three cases, these incidents illustrate an unwillingness by anti-Israel groups and individuals to allow the pro-Israel voice a space to be heard, an unfortunate position given that college campuses should serve as a venue for the free exchange of ideas, not a place to “shut down” views one may disagree with.
The strategy first began in earnest in the 2009-2010 school year with loud disruptions of, among others, speeches by former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert at the University of Chicago and Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren at the University of California, Irvine.

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