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May 4, 2017 1:34 pm

Pitzer College Keeps BDS Resolution Largely Unchanged, Leaving Pro-Israel Students Disappointed

avatar by Rachel Frommer

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Pitzer College. Photo: Wikipedia.

The pro-boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) amendment unexpectedly passed by Claremont Colleges in April, during Passover, was revisited earlier this week, but the minor edits made to the motion have left pro-Israel student leaders “very disappointed.”

Zachary Freiman — an executive board member of the Claremont Progressive Israel Alliance (CPIA) — told The Algemeiner on Wednesday the Pitzer College Student Senate reaffirmed its commitment to BDS at Sunday’s meeting, and only decided to remove a hyperlink to the anti-Israel movement’s official website. Now, the amendment instead lists the five specific companies the senate has decided to boycott — Caterpillar, SodaStream, Ahava Dead Sea Laboratories, Hewlett-Packard and Sabra.

Freiman said that, with this action, the senate showed its dedication “to a campaign that refuses to acknowledge the legitimacy of Israel as a country or a Jewish state.”

“Not a single senator mentioned antisemitism or the rise in antisemitic activity correlated with campuses that approve BDS resolutions,” Freiman said. “There was no precaution taken to protect Jewish or pro-Israel students from harassment on campus.”

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However, he added, a senator mention “the discrimination that pro-Palestinian activists face after college in the job market.”

Freiman said that the pro-Israel response to the BDS motion was limited to a fellow member of CPIA being permitted two minutes to voice some concerns. Claire Wengrod — the senate’s communications secretary — called the conversation between the anti- and pro-Israel attendees of the meeting “civil.”

Kate Dolgenos, the president of CPIA, told The Algemeiner that “several senators showed up wearing keffiyehs.”

As for potential further changes to the BDS motion, both Freiman and Wengrod told The Algemeiner that there were no plans to reconsider the amendment this academic year.

Wengrod noted that Sunday was the last senate meeting of the semester, in addition to the fact that final exams season has begun, demanding students’ full attention.

She said the “implications the amendment has on our campus climate during an already stressful time” have been discussed by Pitzer College President Melvin Oliver and other members of the faculty and staff, though the administration’s explicit involvement has been limited. Those actions included a letter emailed the week of April 23 to the Pitzer community from the president.

In that letter, obtained by The Algemeiner, Oliver stated that holding the original BDS vote on Passover and Easter “had the effect of excluding important student voices from the conversation. This is not consistent with our core value of ensuring that all voices are heard.”

Oliver had also called the senate’s announcement that they were to hold another meeting about the amendment a “promising development.” The senate’s decision to “review…the original motion…will enable all voices to be heard and all viewpoints to be considered,” he wrote at the time.

Jewish students felt “ambushed” by the landslide vote for BDS that took place on Easter Sunday and the sixth day of Passover. That incident followed a similar surprise vote at Tufts University, just ahead of Passover, in favor of a BDS resolution.

Those acts were part of a series of anti-Israel activities that took place during the Passover holiday at campuses across the US, a trend an expert described as a “fairly common tactic” used to “shut down Jewish voices.”

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