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March 9, 2016 2:44 pm

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

avatar by Andrew Pessin

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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.

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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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  • Jay P.

    Israel needs a new public relations strategy. The violence against Israel is perceived as valid due to Israel’s hard line on everything. Demonstrate compassion, knock down fewer homes, and let the world see that. The world only sees reaction to the hard line. The perception of Israel is directly related to anti-semitism. Ask very publicly for its neighbors acceptance, make that an issue. Carry the big stick, but speak in a more friendly tone.

  • Sofia B

    Finally, the great solution by the U of M made the right choice of teaching students attending University, not to spend time with hateful BDS movements – especially since most don’t even understand the situation. If one writer states that she is glad she didn’t chose this University, well, perhaps she should spend some time learning History, and studying the Land of Judea – and know for a fact that it was the Romans that changed the name to Palestina, P doesn’t even exists in the Arabic alphabet its F. Its a tiny piece of land that the Jewish people converted this wasteland, swampland, and made it the paradise it is today. They attend very good Universities in case Shelly is interested, may I suggest Technion. She
    might get a very good education.

  • shelly DiStaola

    That is not good. So the U of M has no back bone, glad I did not choose to go there!

  • Thank You U of M! <3<3<3 a land dispute in which Jews do not demand all the land, named Palestine by bossy Rome at the time. (Palestinas were not Arab muslims but Aegean Greeks)and mostly worthless land before 1948.The Jews mostly are not bigoted against Arabs and want peace. Arab muslims claim Jews displaced them and demand ALL of that land, and Jew haters are so glad to sympathize with them. I love Arabs, but no, those mostly innocent Jews do not deserve to be totally kicked out of that land. they already gave the very best of the land Gaza and West bank. Muslims will rage against them crying "unfair!" until every Jew is cast out of the world. "unfair" is Arab media bombarding children with "Murder Jew!" messages til they attempt murder and have to be killed to protect the victims.

  • daniel sebold

    Is it anti Semitic to be anti Zionist? My guess is that it is not. You could hate Israel and want it abolished and still love Jews. I am sure there are folk like that. I don’t know if the BDS people are like that: lovers of Jews, haters of Israel. Back in the seventies when I was in university a young Palestinian stood up in front of my speech class and condemned us all for being pro Israel. None of us, frankly, had a clue about the issue back then, and, now, here it is again, stronger than ever.

    I have spent three and half years of my life in Saudi Arabia and was recently shown a video by an Egyptian friend of an Israeli soldier man-handling a Palestinian boy. He never struck the boy. I told him I thought it pretty lame compared to the way Muslims treat Muslims, though perhaps this is irrelevant to an argument in favor of Israel. One of my Saudi students yelled at me one day because I showed the class a picture of a twelfth century turquoise Seljuk vase made in Iran. He said that it was made by the filthy Shiites who weren’t even Muslim at all and who were the most wretched scum of the earth. Noam Chomsky would tell us not to pay attention to this and to only concentrate on our own faults. So let’s get rid of Israel and watch the Shiites and Sunnis kill each other over Palestine.

    • Henry

      Yes, it is indeed anti-Semitic to be anti-Zionist. There are over 120 “Christain” countries in the world and over 43 “Muslim” countries. An anti-Semite believes that one predominately Jewish country is one too much in the world, despite its roots being traced since the Bronze Age to modern day Israel. Jews are not completely safe in any country except for Israel. By delegitimizing Israel (and that is exactly what you are trying to do), you are suggesting Jews should have no homeland and no safe place to live. Therefore, you are an anti-Semite.

  • SteveHC

    NOTE TO MODERATOR: Sorry for the typo in my submitted cment here – “tomdee” should of course be “to see.” As this site does not allow self-editing of submitted comments, I’d appreciate it if you could either correct it for me or if not then simply not “publish” the comment. Thanks.

  • SteveHC

    Good tomdee that Eric Kaler is no one’s fool.

  • Carol

    Super!

  • Rochel Sylvetsky

    It’s about time someone came up with the idea SSI used. Brilliant, democratic and non-aggressive – and if a proper debate took place (if it could be held without the SJP heckling and shouting) on campuses where the two resolutions would be left on the agenda, the anti-BDSers would win it.

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