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January 4, 2017 3:02 pm

In Aftermath of BDS Resolution at Portland State U, Israel-Advocates ‘Excited to Move On,’ Publicly Celebrate Jewish State

avatar by Lea Speyer

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Photo: Portland State University.

Photo: Portland State University.

The head of Portland State University’s only pro-Israel society told Oregon Jewish Life about being “excited [to] move on,” two months after the conclusion of a contentious BDS campaign on campus.

Brennan Thorpe, the president of CHAI and a StandWithUs Emerson Fellow, was referring to the sense of resigned relief he and like-minded peers have been experiencing in the aftermath of the October passage of a pro-Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions student government bill that they had spent nearly a year trying to prevent.

Despite their failed efforts to “defen[d] against blatantly antisemitic and anti-Israel lies” spread on campus by BDS activists, they said at the time that they were preparing to get past the disappointment and work on self-empowerment.

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“Everyone as a community took a few weeks to deal with all the emotions, the frustration, the sadness,” Thorpe said, adding that many heaved a “sigh of relief” about the battle’s being over.

Thorpe said that his group, CHAI — along with PSU Hillel and the Jewish Student Union — are “planning different Israel-themed events this year…not just to celebrate Israel, but [to] bring Israel to Portland State and to other students.”

Echoing Thorpe’s sentiments, PSU Hillel Director Rhonda Kruschen told Oregon Jewish Life that the passage of the BDS resolution “doesn’t mean [students] have to stop celebrating the rich history and culture and everything they appreciate about Israel.”

As The Algemeiner reported in October, PSU’s minority Jewish community faced an uphill battle in garnering support from the wider campus community against the motion, which refers to the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948 as the beginning of the “occupation” of “Palestinian land.”

Noa Raman, the Pacific Northwest/Northern California campus coordinator for the Israel advocacy organization StandWithUs, told The Algemeiner at the time that one of the “biggest challenges” students faced was “apathy.”

Thorpe told The Algemeiner that while pro-Israel students on campus “attempted to get involved in the democratic process and work with the student government…Almost all members of the Student Council had made up their minds against Israel.”

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 former apartheid regime in South Africa, and endorses the ideology of the Black Lives Matter movement.

The passage of the BDS resolution, in addition to other anti-Israel and antisemitic activity on campus, earned PSU the #8 slot on The Algemeiner’s inaugural “40 Worst Colleges for Jewish Students” ranking.

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