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UMass Amherst Chancellor Reaffirms Opposition to BDS as Graduate Student Union Passes BDS Resolution

avatar by Andrew Pessin

Student leading tour at University of Massachusetts-Amherst. Photo: Website

Student leading tour at University of Massachusetts-Amherst. Photo: Website

The Chancellor of the University of Massachusetts-Amherst (UMass) Thursday reaffirmed his opposition to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel, just as the school’s graduate student union was passing a BDS resolution, The Algemeiner has learned.

The Graduate Employee Union (GEO), in a statement on its Facebook page Friday, wrote:

GEO stands in Solidarity with Palestinian Civil Society and joins the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement. The resolution passes 156 – 8.

According to a source who preferred to remain anonymous, the GEO also

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voted down a resolution condemning antisemitism and antisemitic forms of anti-Zionism. They passed a separate measure condemning discrimination including antisemitism but were unwilling to acknowledge or condemn antisemitic forms of anti-Zionism.

They also voted not to vote on a measure calling for the recognition of the Jewish right to self-determination insofar as any people have a right to self-determination and for Israel’s right to exist insofar as any state or nation has a right to exist.

Levi Adelman, a PhD student in Social Psychology, commented to The Algemeiner on what he called the GEO’s refusal “to acknowledge and condemn antisemitic forms of anti-Zionism”:

I made it clear at the meeting that this statement was not saying that criticism of Israel is in any way wrong … I then emphasized that some criticism is problematic, and that’s what we are targeting. Importantly, people jumped down my throat to claim that I was targeting the BDS resolution. In other words, when introduced to the idea of antisemitic forms of anti-Zionism, they immediately thought of BDS, not me. It seems that they are aware that the BDS movement does contain some antisemitism, but they still voted in favor.

Some members also accused me of being strategic in pushing for the resolution, as if nondiscrimination and condemning bigotry is an underhanded trick rather than justice.

The resolution passed by the GEO calls for BDS to be maintained until Israel “ends its occupation of the Palestinian territories and dismantles the Wall,” as well as “protects the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes.”

“That is all code for destroying Israel,” a faculty member who also preferred to remain anonymous told The Algemeiner. “They don’t specify which ‘territories,’ so as to include 1948 Israel, and of course demanding that 5 million ‘refugees’ return — where exactly would the current Jewish citizens go? Would only Jews have to leave, or also the 20% of the Israeli population which is Arab?”

As reported by The Algemeiner, a small group of faculty made a last-ditch effort to oppose the resolution, by publishing a protest letter Thursday in the school newspaper. Further, the GEO vote may be reviewed and possibly overturned by the United Auto Workers, as GEO is affiliated with the larger body.

When reached for a comment on Thursday, the Office of UMass Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy replied that the chancellor had never expressed support for BDS, and referred The Algemeiner to a 2014 statement in which he said,

The University of Massachusetts Amherst is opposed to academic boycotts of any kind. The current boycott of academic institutions in Israel by several academic associations is no exception. While individuals have the right to express their views, we believe that academic boycotts undermine the fundamental principles of free expression and inquiry that are central to our mission of teaching, research and service.

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