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September 6, 2016 4:15 pm

Campus Trends Report: Chicago-Area Colleges ‘New Hub’ of Anti-Israel Activism

avatar by Lea Speyer

University of Chicago campus. Photo: University of Chicago.

University of Chicago campus. Photo: University of Chicago.

Anti-Israel activism on campus is undergoing a regional shift, with Chicago emerging as the “new hub,” and the West Coast on the wane, a new study revealed.

According to the “2015-2016 Campus Trends Report,” conducted and released by the Israel On Campus Coalition (ICC) on Tuesday, “Anti-Israel activity declined or remained constant in every region of the country except the Midwest, where campuses experienced a sharp increase in anti-Israel activism. In California, once the center of anti-Israel involvement, [Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions] BDS activity declined by more than 64 percent year over year, while BDS activism on Midwest campuses increased by 27%.”

Three schools — the University of Chicago, University of Illinois at Chicago and Northwestern University — were highlighted by the ICC for their growing anti-Israel activity, including their respective passage of anti-Israel resolutions within a three-month period during the spring of 2016. The Chicago campuses also saw a surge in BDS activity, anti-Israel lectures, cultural events, film screenings and theme events, such as “Israeli Apartheid Week.”

The evolution of Chicago-area universities into hotbeds of anti-Israel activity is, in part, a reflection of the city’s “growing role as a center” for such activism, especially in serving as the headquarters of the American Muslims for Palestine (AMP) organization, the report found.

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AMP is described in the report as being “linked to a robust network of Chicago-based detractors, including the US Coalition to Boycott Israel, the BDS Campaign in Chicago, the Chicago Coalition for Justice in Palestine, and elements of the Palestine Liberation Organization.” The organization also provides “financial, material and programming” aid to Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), according to the report. AMP’s presence in the city is responsible for “encouraging and training [Chicago] students to attack Israel,” wrote the report.

The report also found an overall decline in BDS campaigns on college campuses, but a major increase in disruptions of Israel-related events. It also noted a growing presence of anti-Israel Jewish groups, such as Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), which has “proved critical for SJP, helping it legitimize anti-Zionist rhetoric and effectively defense against accusations of antisemitism.”

Intersectionality, or the formation of coalitions between anti-Israel groups and other student activist organizations, such as Black Lives Matter, has also increased, the report said.

“These developments have transformed the anti-Israel movement on American campuses,” the report said. “After years of focusing efforts and resources to fighting BDS measures, Israel’s supporters must now adapt in order to address a broader range of anti-Israel efforts.”

The ICC is a national organization whose aim is to strengthen the pro-Israel community on campus, offering grants, fellowships and research. It produces reports on campus trends every year.

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