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December 19, 2016 12:16 pm

Anti-Israel University of Michigan Professor ‘Puzzled’ by ‘Fizzling’ BDS Activism on Campus

avatar by Lea Speyer

University of Michigan, Dearborn campus. Photo: Dave Parker/Wikimedia Commons.

University of Michigan, Dearborn campus. Photo: Dave Parker/Wikimedia Commons.

Students at the University of Michigan, Dearborn (UMD) have lost interest in anti-Israel activism, a faculty member and long-time BDS activist told local independent newspaper Arab American News on Thursday. 

David Skrbina, a professor of philosophy, said he is “puzzled” as to why Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement activity at the school has “fizzled” out, the newspaper reported.

“I would always expect [UMD’s student body] to be a leading charge among the whole US on these kinds of issues,” he said. “But no…[I]t’s kind of a disappointment that we don’t see more action from the students.”

UMD’s Arab Student Union and Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) chapter “seem to be shying away from divestment talks,” possibly due to feeling intimidated or fearful of being surveilled for their efforts, Skrbina said. As a result, he lamented, he has been forced to “[fight] the battle on his own.”

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Since 2005, the UMD student government has passed six BDS resolutions, calling on the university to cut all ties with the Jewish state. These anti-Israel motions, when presented to the school’s Board of Regents, have been dismissed, and the Faculty Senate recently voted down a similar initiative.

Skrbina said that despite the administration’s repeated rejection of BDS, he tries to “stress to [students] that it’s important to make the statement, even if it’s a morale statement.”

Dearborn, Michigan is home to one of the oldest and most visible Arab-American communities, and UMD boasts a large, vibrant population of Arab and Muslim students. The campus has been the site of several antisemitic and anti-Zionist events in recent years.

As The Algemeiner reported, UMD’s SJP came under fire in November after it hosted a “Zionism is scary” bake sale during Halloween. The event featured cookies and cakes with Palestinian flag icing and a board of quotes “from the Zionist mind.” A representative of the group explained to The Algemeiner at the time that the event was justified “because Zionism constitutes antisemitism.”

UMD is not the only Michigan-based university feeling the lack of enthusiasm for Israel boycotts. In November, a BDS resolution at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor was defeated by a landslide vote, the 10th anti-Israel resolution to be knocked down by the school’s student government since 2002.

Support for such anti-Israel activity also appeared to be waning on some Canadian college campuses when, as The Algemeiner reported, a BDS motion at the University of Toronto was voted down in November.

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