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April 13, 2016 3:37 pm

‘Vote Was About Denying Israel’s Right to Exist,’ Opponents Say After BDS Passes at U of Chicago

avatar by Andrew Pessin

The University of Chicago. Photo: Wikipedia.

The University of Chicago. Photo: Wikipedia.

The student government at the University of Chicago (UC) passed a Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) resolution against Israel Tuesday, The Algemeiner has learned, with eight in favor, four against and three abstaining.

UChicago Coalition for Peace, a group that had spearheaded efforts to oppose the resolution, immediately stated on its Facebook page that the vote was “a stain” on UC, and did not “represent the values of this University, including freedom of speech, freedom of expression, and commitment to intellectual curiosity.”

The statement continued:

Our council representatives had the chance to accept a resolution stripped of explicit connections to the global BDS movement and also had a chance to affirm their belief in the right of the Jewish people to self-determination. This alternative resolution was soundly defeated, sending the message to students on campus that this resolution is not about human rights, but about the vilification of the Jewish state and denying its right to exist in any form.

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The statement referred to two attempts, by opponents, to amend the resolution to make it less antagonistic to Israel, according to UC’s student newspaper. The first aimed to introduce a clause supporting the right of self-determination for the Jewish people and the continued existence of Israel. That amendment was voted down with four in favor, six against and five abstaining.

The second proposed amendment would have eliminated all five of the references to the BDS movement in the resolution. After a debate in which one student representative insisted that “tying this to BDS is why this movement exists in the first place,” the amended resolution failed with only four in favor and 10 opposed.

Calvin Cottrell, a second-year representative who opposed the resolution, said that BDS was not an appropriate issue for UC’s student government to take up. “We voted on something that no one on this Council ever ran [for election] on voting on,” he told the student newspaper, “and I think we voted on something that is truly out of our scale.”

Nevertheless, he added, it was time to move on, because “we have important work to get to, and I hope people will focus on the real issues [now].”

The UC Coalition for Peace echoed Cottrell’s sentiment, stating, “This decision does not reflect the views of the entire student body.”

The 16 members of the College Council represent the approximately 5,400 undergraduate students at UC.

The vote is the culmination of a series of events, sponsored by proponents of each side, since the “UofC Divest” campaign launched two weeks ago (as reported by The Algemeiner). The resolution, promoted by UofC Divest and Jewish Voice for Peace, was also endorsed, according to UofC Divest’s Facebook page, by many student and community groups, including Students for Justice in Palestine, the Muslim Students Association, Black Students Association, Latinx Students Association at SSA (LSA), Queers United in Power, the Socioeconomic Diversity Alliance, The Fight for Just Food, UChicago’s Women’s Rugby and Hyde Park Pagans.

StandWithUs, the pro-Israel educational organization, released a statement condemning the UC student government for “refusing to affirm the rights of the Jewish people to self-determination after being asked to do so by Jewish students.” After praising those UC students who worked against the resolution, it reaffirmed its commitment to “work with our partners at Hillel, the Israel on Campus Coalition, and the JUF Israel Education Center to empower students at the University of Chicago and elsewhere” against the BDS campaign against Israel.

According to AMCHA Initiative, a campus antisemitism watchdog, the UMN vote was the twelfth campus BDS vote this year, with now five campuses voting in support of BDS and seven against. Earlier Tuesday the University of Minnesota defeated BDS for the second time in five weeks, as reported by The Algemeiner.

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