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April 9, 2017 6:41 pm

Jewish Community at Tufts University ‘Deeply Disturbed’ by Surprise BDS Resolution Brought for Vote Days Before Passover

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Tufts University. Photo: Wikipedia.

Jewish student leaders at Tufts University “are working intensely” to combat a surprise boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) resolution initiated by an anti-Israel group for a vote days before Passover, the campus chaplain told The Algemeiner on Friday.

“Yesterday, without any forewarning, Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) put forward this resolution, to be voted on by the [Tufts Community Union (TCU)] student senate this Sunday night,” said the campus Hillel’s executive director, Rabbi Jeffrey Summit, who also serves as a research professor in the department of music and the Judaic studies program.

“The Hillel Jewish community is deeply disturbed by this vote, and by the way the resolution was brought so close to Pesach, at a time when many of our students are home with their families, readying themselves for the holiday,” Summit said.

He added that Hillel has been in close contact with a coalition of Israel-related student groups,  including Tufts Friends of Israel, Tufts American Israel Alliance (TAIA), Tufts Students for Two States and J Street U.

“The phenomenal student leaders have been working very hard to oppose this from the moment we found out,” Summit said, adding that Hillel strongly believes “BDS  is not a productive way to promote any sort of useful dialogue.”

Keren Hendel — a student affiliated with TAIA and Students for Two States — told The Algemeiner, “The pro-Israel community has really come together over this, and I’m impressed by how quickly people have mobilized. Yesterday, the morning we found out, we already had some 50 people emailing senators asking to postpone the vote, expressing to their senators that they want the opportunity to have a voice on this issue.”

Hendel, who said she has personally spoken with a number of representatives and had meetings set up with others, said, “We are trying to explain to senators that days before Passover is not an appropriate time for such a vote, because we need to have a much longer conversation on this topic.”

She added that she believes “the senate is not the best place for that discussion, as its job is to decide on issues central to student life on campus, and this is a larger international issue.”

Both Summit and Hendel expressed optimism that the vote may still be postponed.

“We don’t know if this vote will pass, or what would happen if it does,” Hendel said. “And our goal is to make sure we don’t find out.”

According to an extensive report by The Algemeiner last December, the practice of staging BDS votes on or close to Jewish holidays is a favored tactic of anti-Israel groups.

According to Jewish leaders interviewed by The Algemeiner at the time, the pattern is aimed at preventing Jewish students from countering Israel’s increasingly professionalized, sophisticated and well-funded on-campus critics.

“It’s not a coincidence. It’s not an accident,” the executive director of the Israel on Campus Coalition, Jacob Baime, told The Algemeiner. He said he sees about one example every month of anti-Israel actions on campus timed to the Sabbath or Jewish holidays.

“It is a fairly common tactic,” Baime said. “Israel’s detractors have an interest in shutting out Jewish voices.”

The president and senior senator of the TCU did not immediately respond to The Algemeiner‘s request for comment on the vote at Tufts.

As The Algemeiner reported, last month the Ohio State University undergraduate student government rejected a BDS motion for the third time in two years, while a similar resolution passed at the University of Michigan-Dearborn.

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