Anti-Israel Divestment Resolution Fails at George Washington University by Narrow Margin
A divestment resolution’s failure to be passed by the George Washington (GW) University student government on Monday by the slimmest of margins has pro-Israel activists on campus breathing a sigh of relief.
GW student Jake Barnette — an Emerson Fellow for the educational group StandWithUs (SWU) — told The Algemeiner he was “very thankful that this bill was defeated,” but added, “the small margin of this vote means that our campus needs to be more united and work together.”
The motion — titled “The Palestinian Human Rights Act” and demanding the GW endowment divest from ten companies that supposedly profit from Palestinian suffering — was promoted by GW’s chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), and included a month-long campaigning effort under the banner, “Divest This Time at GW.”
The final vote tally — after a marathon four hours of debate — was 14 in favor, 15 against, and one abstention.
Ben Brownstein — SWU’s mid-Atlantic campus director — said in a statement Tuesday, “I’m glad that enough students saw through the propaganda and took a principled stand.”
“Anti-Israel activists relied on misleading claims and manipulative rhetoric, hoping that emotional appeals would cloud the judgement of the Student Association,” he added.
According to SWU, the motion “relied heavily on the infamous and widely discredited Goldstone Report,” the 2011 document produced from a United Nations fact-finding mission into Israel’s military conduct during Operation Cast Lead (the IDF’s December 2008-January 2009 campaign against Hamas in the Gaza Strip). Richard Goldstone, the report’s eponymous author, later retracted his accusations of Israeli war crimes.
SJP maintained that the resolution was disconnected from the worldwide boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement to isolate and delegitimize Israel, and was only focused on the ten corporations named, according to campus paper The GW Hatchet. (Those included Caterpillar, Boeing, General Electric, Hewlett-Packard, Lockheed Martin and Motorola Solutions, which SJP said have manufactured goods and weaponry sold to Israel and used against Palestinians.)
However, the GW divestment campaign included a launch event featuring renowned BDS activist Angela Davis, and celebrations of the successes of BDS resolutions at other campuses, including one in April at Tufts University. SJP also explicitly referenced BDS in its statement on the motion’s outcome, posted on Facebook, in which it described the movement a “call from Palestinian civil society…[to] people of conscience.”
Gilad Skolnick — the director of campus programming at the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) on Campus — told The Algemeiner, “As proven time and time again, the BDS initiative is an antisemitic campaign targeting only the Jewish state. The claim that this particular resolution is not part of this broader campaign is either due to ignorance or a deliberate and deceitful move on the part of the students penning the resolution with the aim of misleading their peers.”
GW student Noa Levin — a former CAMERA fellow — said she thought BDS would “continue to be an issue on campus, because it’s under the umbrella of liberal causes that people — without prior knowledge of the conflict — just accept.”
The GW result followed a failed attempt to pass pro-BDS resolution at Montclair State University late last month. That motion was widely rejected by the student senate, with 11 votes against, one in favor and six abstentions.