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April 13, 2016 2:07 pm

BDS Movement Sees Second Defeat in Five Weeks at U of Minnesota

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University of Minnesota. Photo: Webpage

University of Minnesota. Photo: Webpage

The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel suffered its second defeat in five weeks at the University of Minnesota (UMN) Tuesday, The Algemeiner has learned.

After a four-hour debate, the Minnesota Student Association (MSA) passed a heavily amended version of a BDS resolution originally sponsored by the campus chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine and many other organizations. The amendments removed all references to any specific countries and corporations, including Israel.

Benjie Kaplan, Executive Director of the UMN Hillel, told The Algemeiner that “all of the 35+ student groups” initially sponsoring the resolution withdrew their support “once it was amended to not target Israel or the Jewish community.”

In a statement on its Facebook page Wednesday, Students Supporting Israel (SSI), whose Minnesota chapter, as part of a group called “UMN United,” proposed the amendments, wrote:

Because this amended resolution in no way subjects Israel, or companies which do business in Israel, for targeted divestment this action was a clear defeat for the BDS movement at the University of Minnesota and more globally.

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In the same statement, Sami Rahamim, SSI President at UMN, praised student leaders for speaking up “for the inclusion of all communities on campus, including Jewish students.” He further affirmed their resolve not to “allow divisive campaigns to tear apart our campus community or to isolate Jewish students because of their religious or ethnic identities, or because they support the Jewish state of Israel.”

The amended resolution, half the length of the original, resolved that MSA endorse divestment generally from “corporations involved in human rights violations,” and from “companies profiting from human rights abuses and violations of international law.”

The original resolution focused primarily on Israel, specifically targeting the Jewish state for divestment corporations that it claimed “profit from” human rights violations against Palestinians. Its examples included Caterpillar, which it said provides Israel equipment to demolish “Palestinian homes, refugee camps, water cisterns, and agricultural fields,” and Raytheon, whose “guided missiles were used to ruthlessly level civilian-dense regions during [Israel’s] Operation Cast Lead.”

The motion to amend the original resolution was approved by a vote of 37-30, with 7 abstentions, while the motion on the amended resolution passed by a vote of 45-18, with 7 abstentions.

After the vote, the student group leading the divestment effort, UMN Divest, posted a statement on its Facebook page, protesting that the amendments “co-opted our narrative and undermined the intent of the resolution. It is not the resolution we initially brought forth. It is not what 40 organizations, 18 faculty, and hundreds of students signed on to.”

The organizations and student groups the statement referred to, in addition to SJP, include: Jewish Voice for Peace, Muslim Student Association, Black Student Union, Tibetan American Student Association, American Indian Student Cultural Center, Women’s Student Activist Collective, Asian-American Students Union, Disabled Student Cultural Center, Queer Student Cultural Center and the African Student Association.

A pro-Israel student present at the debate, who preferred not to identified, shared this observation on his personal Facebook page:

They actually claimed it was “anti-Palestinian discrimination” because we wanted to remove the names of the (all Israel-related) human rights violating corporations from the resolution. They also said that Jews aren’t a minority and that we’re white and have no credibility.

A second pro-Israel student, who also preferred not to be identified, commented on her personal Facebook page on the motives of those behind the original resolution. Though they had framed their goal as standing up for human rights in general, she wrote, they “found it to be a problem” when the resolution was amended to actually be about human rights in general.

One commenter on her page who had watched the debate added: “The anger of the anti-Israel gang betrayed them. Instead of welcoming a resolution that unites people to promote human rights, they were [only] angry that they couldn’t target Israel.”

Hillel Director Kaplan agreed, to The Algemeiner, noting that the amended resolution kept intact all the “stated goals” of financial transparency, socially responsible investing, and having a global approach, yet “UMN Divest withdrew their support post-amendment, showing that this was a BDS campaign despite their efforts to mask their intentions.”

Ethan Roberts, of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas which supported the pro-Israel students in their efforts, told The Algemeiner that while the “amendment approach” might not work on every campus,

in cases where the pro-BDS forces seek to hide their true agenda and mislead student government into thinking that a divestment resolution which singles out Israel, isn’t actually about Israel, then such an amendment which tests that proposition can be extremely effective.

Yesterday’s vote followed a week of pro-divestment events on UM’s campus.

This was the second time in five weeks that a BDS resolution had been defeated at UMN. As reported by The Algemeiner, in March, the same pro-Israel groups succeeded in having a BDS resolution removed from MSA’s agenda by submitting, at the same time, a counter-resolution calling for the condemnation of antisemitism as defined by the US State Department, which includes certain manners of criticizing Israel. MSA chose to drop both resolutions rather than debate and vote on them.

“MSA members again wisely voted to reject singling out Israel and oppose the BDS movement,” the SSI statement continued, and, by voting as they did, “MSA decisively agreed that subjecting Israel to demonization, delegitimization, and double standards is wrong and divisive.”

According to AMCHA Initiative, a campus antisemitism watchdog, the UMN vote was the eleventh campus BDS vote this year, with four campuses voting in support of BDS and now seven against. It was also the third vote this month, with BDS passing last week at Rutgers University-Newark and failing earlier this week, as reported by The Algemeiner, at the University of Michigan-Dearborn.

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