NEW YORK – Campuses across the United States this week took to voting on measures relating to Israel and the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement with mixed results.
Students at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign voted to defeat a discriminatory referendum calling for divestments from companies doing business with Israel on Sunday.
The proposal was rejected with 3,133 votes against and 1,700 votes in favor.
Israel education group StandWithUs hailed the decision as a positive step in the fight against discriminatory policies that single out the Jewish state.
“Ultimately, students at UIUC [University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign] saw through the propaganda and realized that tearing down Israelis is not the same as supporting Palestinians or upholding human rights,” said Liora Bachrach, StandWithUs Midwest Campus coordinator.
“I am so proud today of our community for defeating BDS on campus for the second year in a row. This win reaffirms that the University of Illinois is a pro-Israel campus and a place welcoming to Jewish and Israeli students,” said Elan Karoll, co-president of Illini Public Affairs Committee. “We had so many volunteers who were motivated by our cause and supported us throughout the campaign. Students truly came together when it came to defeating divestment. I look forward to continuing our pro-Israel efforts and using this momentum to do amazing work on campus.”
Meanwhile, a student referendum at the University of Minnesota calling for divestment from companies doing business with Israel narrowly passed on Saturday, with a vote tallying 3,392 in favor and 3,175 against.
The referendum stated: “Should the students of the University of Minnesota demand the Board of Regents divest from companies that are: 1) Complicit in Israeli violations of Palestinian human rights, 2) Maintaining and establishing private prisons and immigrant detention centers, or 3) violating Indigenous sovereignty?”
The nonbinding measure proposed by Students for Justice in Palestine was part of the all-campus election that took place last week.
“UNFORTUNATELY, throughout the past week, we have seen the harmful effects that BDS can have on campus climate,” explained Benjie Kaplan, executive director of the University of Minnesota Hillel branch, following the referendum passage. “Several students were repeatedly subjected to hateful comments and vitriol that have no place at the U or any university.”
In a complaint submitted to University of Minnesota administrators before the vote, Hillel claimed that the referendum violated school policy, which forbids discrimination based on religion and national origin, and that Israel is the only nation named in the referendum “for censure.”
“When the Jewish nation is targeted in this way, it inherently targets the Jewish people and the Jewish community on campus directly,” University of Minnesota Hillel added.
Also voting on a resolution concerning the Jewish state this week were pupils at the Texas A&M University, where the Student Senate approved a decision to support Israeli and Jewish students, and oppose anti-Israel boycotts and other forms of antisemitism.
The resolution passed with a vote of 38 in favor, six against, and eight abstentions on March 7.
College of Engineering Senator Jacob Powell and Off-campus Senator Olivia Krog introduced the “Support of Israel and Protection of Jewish Students Resolution” last Thursday.
“According to the definition of antisemitism adopted by the US State Department, European Union, Canada and major Jewish organizations, the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement is antisemitic in its effect, if not in its intent,” Powell read from the resolution.
“I think this is a really timely resolution... High schoolers around the nation are deciding on a college to go to. If we do not take a stand against BDS and for Israel, then students who are Jewish might not feel safe here,” Powell added.
Jen Weintraub, Southern Campus coordinator at StandWithUs, congratulated the student body at Texas A&M for their “inspiring” stand against BDS which seeks to silence support for the Jewish state.
“It’s inspiring to see student leaders being so vocal in support of the Israeli and Jewish communities,” said Weintraub “This resolution makes clear that there is no place for antisemitism or any other form of bigotry on campus.”
Similar resolutions have passed at UCLA, UC Santa Barbara, Indiana University, and elsewhere in past years.