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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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December 2, 2014

Marginal Anti-Israel Group Alters Holocaust Photo to Condemn Israel

A Facebook group called “I Acknowledge Apartheid Exists,” with over 91,000 fans, recently posted a photoshopped picture of Holocaust survivors holding signs that read “Stop the Holocaust in Gaza,” “Gaza, the world’s biggest concentration camp,” “Stop U.S. aid to Israel,” and “Break the silence on Gaza!!” Below the picture was text that stated, “Whatever happened to ‘Never again?’” [sic].i-acknowledge-apartheid-exists

The “I Acknowledge Apartheid Exists” group was founded on March 30, 2013 and its administrators frequently post images that delegitimize Israel and describe it as a “terrorist nation.” Recent posts include an image that described the State of Israel as “Nazi Israel” and another that stated “End genocide in Gaza.” Other posts ended with hashtags such as “#StopTheNazis” and “#StopIsrael.”

The group’s Communications Director, Derek Hummel, told TheRealNews.com in an April 2013 interview that the page was briefly shut down by Facebook because of complaints that were submitted by users who were offended by content that the group was posting. He added that Facebook reversed the decision shortly thereafter and that a fan of the page had written to tell them that, “an army of Jews were out to disband our Facebook page.” Hummel claimed, “the very next day, we were shut down.”

Over the years, Holocaust imagery has been used by many anti-Israel groups and individuals that look to make false comparisons between Israel and Nazi Germany in an effort to cast Israel as a demonic state that is bent on exterminating the Palestinian people. Many examples of this appeared during Operation Protective Edge when participants at anti-Israel rallies and demonstrations held signs with slogans like “From Auschwitz to Palestine, My Ancestors are Crying…” and “Doesn’t the Holocaust teach us that it must never happen to anyone ever again?” In addition, participants at some of those rallies held signs showing the design of the Israeli flag with a swastika replacing the Star of David or the picture of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wearing a swastika armband.

houston-holocaust-museum

Comparing Israelis to Nazis during a protest in front of the Holocaust Museum in Houston, January 16, 2009. Source: Jewish Herald-Voice, Houston

Protesters at anti-Israel rallies that took place during Israel’s Operation Pillar of Defense in November 2012 also used similar rhetoric, calling for an end to “the Nazi occupation of Gaza,” describing Gaza as today’s “Warsaw Ghetto” and accusing Israel of committing a genocide and massacre of the Palestinian people. That sort of rhetoric was also used during rallies and demonstrations that followed Operation Cast Lead.

One of those examples took place in Houston where the Houston Coalition for Justice and Peace staged anti-Israel protests and demonstrations around the city. At one of those rallies, which took place outside of the Holocaust Museum in Houston, participants wore mock concentration camp prisoner uniforms and looked to charge Israel with the crime of “genocide” against the Palestinians.

Student groups have also used Holocaust imagery to condemn Israel and its supporters on many occasions. An example of this took place less than a month ago when the University of Central Florida’s Students for Justice in Palestine (UCF SJP) chapter posted a graphic on their Facebook page that showed a face with a swastika talking to what appears to be a face with an Israeli flag. The face with the swastika said, “You aren’t a real human race! DIE!” and below it was a similar picture that showed a face with an Israeli flag talking to a face with a Palestinian flag, stating, “You aren’t a real human race! DIE!” Above the image, UCF SJP wrote, “History, unfortunately, has repeated itself.”

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November 26, 2014

California Campuses See Increase in Anti-Israel Activity

The documented increase in anti-Israel activity so far this academic year has been most apparent in California, which has seen a significant increase in the number of scheduled anti-Israel events.

Since the beginning of the academic year, there have been 40 anti-Israel events scheduled to take place on college campuses compared to the 15 events scheduled during that same time period last year.ucla-divest-bds

These events, which are frequently sponsored by groups like Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), have addressed how to initiate Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions campaigns against Israel and often attempt to bring atten­tion to their activism by couching their hostility towards Israel in social justice terms, linking the conflict in Gaza to other unrelated issues.

Just this week, for example, the UCLA student government endorsed “A Resolution to Divest from Corporations Engaged in Violence against Palestinians.” The resolution, which was submitted by UCLA SJP, calls for the university to divest from 11 corporations, including Boeing, Caterpillar, Cement Roadstone Holdings, Cemex, General Dynamics, General Electric, Hewlett Packard, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, and United Technologies. Although the resolution was passed under the pretext that those corporations violate Palestinian human rights, none of those companies listed are actually engaged in violence against Palestinians.

Other examples of the types of events that California universities have hosted so far this semester include:

  • Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW), a weeklong series of anti-Israel events which usually occurs on campuses in the Spring, took place at UC Riverside from November 17-20, 2014. IAW at UC Riverside featured four events, which included a “die-in” and a performance by Remi Kanazi, an Organizing Committee member of the US Campaign for the Academic & Cultural Boycott of Israel, who uses spoken word and poetry to promote anti-Israel initiatives like divestment and a one-state solution.
  •  A lecture delivered by Alison Weir at San Diego State University titled “The hidden history behind the US & Israel,” based on her most recent book, in which she claims that supporters of Israel have exercised undue control over American society for “over a hundred years.”

Although anti-Israel activity is not a new phenomenon on campuses in California, this year’s increase is not a surprise, as it follows 47 anti-Israel demonstrations that occurred in California during Operation Protective Edge.  Many of these demonstrations were co-sponsored by student groups like the General Union of Palestine Students (GUPS) at San Francisco State University and various SJP chapters throughout the state. At several demonstrations, participants held signs that compared the State of Israel to Nazi Germany and at a demonstration in San Francisco, participants burned an Israeli flag.

Additionally, in late September, American Muslims for Palestine (AMP), the leading organization providing anti-Zionist training and education to college students throughout the country, began the academic year with a call for an “International Day of Action on College Campuses,” advocating for a variety of BDS-related initiatives in an effort to isolate and demonize Israel and Jewish communal organizations. ADL documented only ten “Day of Action” demonstrations in the U.S. with three having taken place at California universities such as Stanford University, San Jose State University, and UC Berkeley.

Even with the rise in anti-Israel activity on many campuses in California, most Jewish and pro-Israel students report feeling comfortable to express their religious and political beliefs at their schools.  While anti-Semitism does occur too often at colleges throughout the country, generally respect is the norm, and anti-Jewish bigotry is not openly tolerated.  This message is often conveyed by university administrations, who are on the front lines of the struggle to combat hate on campus while balancing free speech, academic freedom, and maintaining universities as the “marketplaces of ideas” simultaneously.

An example of this occurred after a very divisive and difficult quarter on the UCLA campus in the Spring of 2014 surrounding the Israel-Palestinian issue. At that time, UCLA Chancellor Gene Block issued a statement on The Importance of Civil Discourse, reminding the campus community that “Political speech that stigmatizes or casts aspersions on individuals or particular groups does not promote healthy debate but debases it by trying to intimidate individuals and groups… [I]f we listen only to those who already share our assumptions, truth gets lost, our intellectual climate is impoverished and our community is diminished.”

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