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February 18, 2016 3:40 pm

New Anti-BDS Strategy Scores First Victory On Illinois Campus; Prevents Singling Out of Israel in Divestment Resolution

avatar by Andrew Pessin

Attendees at the UIC Student Government Divestment vote, Feb. 15: Twitter

Attendees at the UIC Student Government Divestment vote on Feb. 15. Photo: Twitter.

Pro-Israel students at the University of Illinois-Chicago (UIC) expressed relief on Tuesday that their effort to alter the text of a divestment resolution brought before the Undergraduate Student Government bore fruit, The Algemeiner has learned.

The original wording of the resolution, proposed by the country-wide campus organization Students for Justice in Palestine and sponsored by the group UIC Divest, singled out Israel as an international violator of human rights and called on the university to “divest fully from companies profiting from human rights abuses and violations of international law in Palestine.”

The final text of the resolution, which passed Monday night, was far broader. It called on the university to “divest fully from companies profiting from human rights abuses and violations of international law including in but not limited to Palestine, Syria, China, United Kingdom, US-Mexico border, and Chicago.”

UIC industrial design student Amitai Loew, who was instrumental in the resolution’s modification, told The Algemeiner on Wednesday that he was sorry he had only learned about it on Feb. 4, a mere four days before it was to be put to a vote by the student government.

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Loew said that as soon as he discovered the anti-Israel resolution was in the works, he and two other Jewish students, Moshe Rubin and Chloe Schofield, formed a group called UIC Coalition for Peace and “immediately created and posted an online petition to try and prevent it.”

The petition, titled “Stop Hate and Discrimination at UIC” and protesting the “destructive boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement,” garnered more than 300 signatures in a single weekend, according to Loew, who brought it before the student government on the day of the vote, Feb. 8.

But, said Loew, “The meeting was a farce,” as he and Schofield “were given 10 minutes apiece to argue against the resolution, and then sat through more than 90 minutes of speakers castigating Israel.”

Nevertheless, Loew said, both their arguments and the petition had an effect. Since the other side claimed they were acting not “against Israel, but for social justice,” he and his partners were able to convince them to revisit the text of the resolution.

Two days later, on February 10, the two sides met in what Loew described as a “tense, two-hour session, in the presence of a mediator.” As fellow student Rubin told the local Chicago Jewish monthly JUF News, “Negotiations … were not easy but we tempered [the resolution] so that it does not single out one nation, Israel, for condemnation.”

UIC Divest reportedly considered the resolution’s passage a victory. Upon the conclusion of the vote, its members erupted into chants of “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” according to Loew. The group Jewish Voice for Peace congratulated UIC Divest on Facebook. Many chapters of Students for Justice in Palestine posted celebratory comments on Twitter, as well, the blog Legal Insurrection reported.

Loew told The Algemeiner that though the framing of the resolution still included Israel, which he considered a “disappointment,” it was still better than the original. But one key lesson he learned, he added, is that “would be better for other groups elsewhere to get ahead of the curve, rather than be reactive.”

After the vote, the UIC Coalition for Peace issued the following statement on its Facebook page:

The UIC Coalition for Peace thanks our student partners and USG for carefully and respectfully considering our position regarding the UIC Divest resolution. After fair and thoughtful negotiations we reached a more balanced and accurate resolution, which no longer singles out one nation — Israel — for condemnation. While it remains problematic that this resolution is still part of the global BDS movement, and therefore cannot earn our endorsement, we will consider a future resolution that urges the University to invest justly and responsibly. We are proud of our student body’s rejection of a divisive divestment campaign, and offer UIC as a model for fairness as students on other campuses consider divestment.

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