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November 17, 2016 8:21 am

Following BDS Defeat, Activists at U of Michigan Reject Outreach Efforts by Pro-Israel Peers, ‘Normalization’ With Jewish State

avatar by Lea Speyer

SAFE's 2016 "apartheid wall" at the University of Michigan. Photo: Twitter.

SAFE’s 2016 “apartheid wall” at the University of Michigan. Photo: Twitter.

Students at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, who supported a Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) resolution that was defeated by a landslide vote at the school on Tuesday, are rejecting overtures by the pro-Israel community to promote dialogue and unity on campus, The Algemeiner has learned.

Talia Katz, a member of two campus groups at Michigan — Israel Leadership Education Advocacy and Dialogue (ILEAD) and The Israel Network — told The Algemeiner that Students belonging to the Allied for Freedom and Equality (SAFE) group, which drove the BDS campaign, “adhere to a strict ‘non-normalization policy,'” and will not even shake hands with pro-Israel students.

“Central Student Government (CSG) has called on us to initiate cooperation and reach out to the other side,” she said. “But how can we follow up on a promise of dialogue and bettering the campus climate if they refuse to speak with us directly, and even call our attempts at communication disingenuous?”

Hasbara Fellowships Campus Fellow Sarit Mafouda, on the other hand, told The Algemeiner that following this period of “high tension” at the school, she hopes both sides “will take this chance and help narrow the divide between students.”

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In the BDS resolution — the 10th at Michigan since 2002 — SAFE called for the university to divest from companies that conduct business with Israel, including Boeing, G4S, United 130 Technologies and Hewlett-Packard.

According to the text of the resolution:

Israeli state policy infringes upon Palestinian human rights. The University of Michigan’s investments in the aforementioned companies, which are involved in socially irresponsible and unethical activities in Palestine, not only personally impact Palestinian students at the University of Michigan, but also calls into question the University’s commitment to invest in socially responsible companies…[Divestment would defund] weapons and equipment used in Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian territories and in violation of international human rights law.

Katz told The Algemeiner that by voting down the resolution, the student government “recognizes that there are two sides to this story.” Supporting the BDS measure would have been akin to “declaring that unilateral blame should be placed on one side of the conflict,” she said. “This would effectively silence the pro-Israel community and close any opportunity for dialogue and debate.”

Mafouda lauded the efforts of the pro-Israel community, telling The Algemeiner it was “truely amazing to see how quickly everyone came together.”

“We knew in order to succeed, we needed a united front. Pro-Israel students with completely different views on the Arab-Israeli conflict all worked together, signaling to the CSG that there were multiple reasons to vote ‘no’,” she said.

Following Tuesday evening’s defeat, SAFE posted the following message on Facebook: “CSG has once again failed the student body. CSG has made it known that it does not represent the widespread calls for basic human decency and justice from the student body. We will always be here fighting for justice. And we will be back.”

As The Algemeiner reported, SAFE is the same group that erected an “apartheid wall” and staged mock Israeli checkpoints on campus during the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashana this year.

Representatives of SAFE did not immediately respond to The Algemeiner’s request for comment.

— Rachel Frommer contributed to this report.

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