Head of Portland State U’s Israel Society Decries Student Senate Passage of BDS Resolution; Says Campus Jewish Community Preparing to ‘Move Forward, Empower Ourselves’
The head of Portland State University’s only pro-Israel society decried the passage Monday of a pro-BDS bill by the Student Senate, telling The Algemeiner about his failed year-long attempt to prevent its adoption and how he and others plan to “move forward and empower ourselves.”
Brennan Thorpe, president of CHAI and a StandWithUS Emerson Fellow, was referring to a bill that not only supports the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, but refers to the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948 as the beginning of the “occupation” of “Palestinian land.”
Thorpe said the effort of the “minority Jewish community on campus” was about “defending against blatantly antisemitic and anti-Israel lies.”
He recounted that since last November, when the bill was first introduced — and later called by the school’s president a “divisive and ill-informed” political statement — the pro-Israel students on campus “attempted to get involved in the democratic process and work with the student government to educate the student body about Israel and provide safe spaces for students to interact with Israel and its wonderful culture.”
However, he said, “Almost all members of the Student Council had made up their minds against Israel.” For example, he said, the incoming president of the Student Senate announced she would make it her job over the summer to “educate” the new senators on boycotting the Jewish state.
In addition, Thorpe said, “One senator had said he met with our groups at various times and heard our side of the story, which is a lie. There was one meeting, which took place for about 15 minutes. He never sat down with us. We weren’t heard at all. We always offered our side of the narrative and they never took us up on that.”
Noa Raman, the Pacific Northwest/Northern California campus coordinator for the Israel advocacy organization StandWithUs, which supported Jewish and pro-Israel students at PSU in their fight against the BDS resolution — told The Algemeiner that one of the “biggest challenges” such students faced was “apathy.”
“People did not want to get involved. There are a lot of loud voices on campus that are overbearing other perspectives one might have about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This leads to other perspectives not being heard,” she said.
Rhonda Kruschen, director of Hillel at PSU, told The Algemeiner that, in the wake of the passage of the BDS resolution, Jewish students are already “actively planning events and conversations on campus that celebrate Israel’s rich, diverse cultural and historical significance.”
She said that after the vote, students “hosted an event at which they learned about the ‘politics of hummus’ over Israeli snacks, and…student leaders met with Israel’s Consul General to the Pacific Northwest, Andy David, for a dialogue about advocacy.”
She added, “Though, of course, we’re concerned, we are buoyed by the knowledge that this vote does not represent the student body, faculty or administration of PSU.”
The PSU Student Senate BDS resolution was passed in a 22-2-1 vote. It calls on the school to divest from companies — such as Caterpillar, Hewlett Packard and Motorola — that conduct business with the Israeli army and with Jewish communities in the West Bank. It also creates linkage between Israel and the South African apartheid regime and endorses the ideology of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Watch anti-Israel activists cheer the passing of the Student Senate bill in favor of BDS: