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March 9, 2016 2:44 pm

New Anti-BDS Strategy Scores Win as U Minnesota Drops Boycott Resolution

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avatar by Andrew Pessin

Anti-BDS campaign logo at the Univ of Minnesota. Photo: Facebook

Anti-BDS campaign logo at the Univ of Minnesota. Photo: Facebook

A new strategy against the campus Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement scored its first win Tuesday, The Algemeiner has learned, when the Student Association at the University of Minnesota voted to remove a BDS resolution from the agenda, rather than debate or vote on it.

The Minnesota chapter of Students Supporting Israel (SSI) immediately issued a statement celebrating the result and describing the new strategy, in which pro-Israel campus advocates moved “from defense to offense.” The statement read, in part:

About a month ago a BDS campaign was launched at the University of Minnesota Campus. The activists of SSI came up with a pioneer strategy: instead of defending ourselves in the student government against the BDS resolution, our own resolution was submitted to be presented on the exact same day, making the debate in the student government a two-sided story by facing two resolutions.

SSI’s resolution called for the condemnation of antisemitism as defined by the US State Department, which includes certain forms and levels of criticizing Israel.

Faced with the prospect of debating and voting on the two opposing resolutions, the student government decided to remove both resolutions from the agenda, and, according to SSI’s statement, “BDS at the University of Minnesota was defeated.”

The Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas (JCRC) and Minnesota Hillel, which worked with SSI and others on the anti-BDS campaign, released a joint statement after the vote:

This evening, the Minnesota Student Association (MSA) voted to strike a resolution that would have called upon the [university] to divest from companies that do business in Israel … We are extremely proud of the students at Minnesota Hillel, SSI, and the entire [anti-BDS] community for their tireless work on these measures. Pro-Israel students showed extraordinary resolve in fighting for the moral and intellectual integrity of the university …

The joint statement additionally thanked community organizations — including the Jewish Federations of Minneapolis and Greater St. Paul, and the Minnesota Rabbinical Association — for “their tremendous leadership.”

University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler issued his own statement prior to the student government meeting, which read in part:

The University does not endorse measures advocated in the … [BDS] resolution. The BDS Movement, while not directly mentioned in the resolution, has called for a comprehensive academic, cultural, economic and consumer boycott of Israel. In general, our university should be wary about such boycotts, given our core values of academic freedom … and concerns that we may be unfairly singling out one government and the citizens of the country in question. In this case, my concerns are heightened by the fact that the Global BDS movement does not seem to distinguish between opposition to the policies of the government of Israel and opposition to the existence of Israel.

Kaler also shared concerns that the SSI resolution would “limit the prospects for constructive campus dialogue, in light of its possible implication that supporters of the divestment resolution are also supporters of antisemitism.”

Proponents of the BDS resolution were disappointed at the results. The blog Legal Insurrection collected several representative tweets:

By refusing to vote at all on #umndivest, @msaUMN has sided with anti-Palestinian bigotry more strongly than if they’d voted it down.

Dear @msaUMN representatives: Don’t sign up to represent the students if all you’re going to do is show us the middle finger. #UMNDivest

@SJP_UMN This is such an ugly slap in the face. A large, peaceful, and loud demonstration should be called, at the next meeting #UMNDivest

Students Supporting Israel was founded in 2012 at the University of Minnesota. It describes itself as

a rapidly growing Pro-Israel international campus movement that supports the State of Israel … [with] multiple chapters across the United States and Canada. Our mission is to be a clear and confident Pro-Israel voice on college campuses, and to support students in grassroots Pro-Israel advocacy.

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