New Report: Anti-Israel BDS Campaigns Drop by 40 Percent on US Campuses in Past Year, but Are Turning Increasingly Aggressive
The number of campaigns supporting the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement at American universities dropped by nearly 40 percent during the past academic year, even as professional anti-Israel organizations invested more resources to advance campus efforts, a new report by a pro-Israel advocacy group has found.
Twenty BDS campaigns took place on US campuses during the 2016-17 academic year, compared to 33 campaigns during the 2015-16 academic year, the Israel on Campus Coalition determined. The amount of anti-Israel activity also decreased by 19 percent last year, with pro-Israel events outnumbering those hostile to Israel by more than 2-1.
Despite these gains, “BDS campaigns were more sophisticated and aggressive, with professional organizations investing greater resources in campus divestment efforts,” the report said.
These groups, which “provided Israel’s detractors with financial, material, and programming support,” include American Muslims for Palestine, American Friends Service Committee, Palestine Legal, the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights and Jewish Voice for Peace, according to the report.
“These national organizations played a significant role in supporting the intense battles waged by Israel detractors on campus,” ICC spokesperson Megan Nathan told The Algemeiner, including by drafting student BDS resolutions and pursuing legal action on behalf of activists.
Members of this anti-Israel network have been increasingly “concentrating their resources on a limited number of BDS battles,” the ICC report noted, namely at high-profile schools including Columbia University, George Washington University, Georgetown University, the University of Michigan, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Ohio State University, and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Despite these efforts, ICC also found “a 40 percent decrease in the number of anti-Israel lectures and speakers hosted on U.S. campuses,” as well as a 25 percent drop in Israeli Apartheid Weeks. In contrast, “pro-Israel theme weeks increased by 14 percent,” while pro-Israel events organized during the week of Israel’s Independence Day increased by 91 percent.
Location served as a deciding factor in the quantity of anti-Israel activism, with events in the Midwest — where both American Muslims for Palestine and the American Friends Service Committee are headquartered — outnumbering those in other regions. California, which experienced an overall reduction in anti-Israel activity, nonetheless saw a nine percent increase in anti-Israel events.
Overall, the total number of both anti-Israel and pro-Israel events declined by nearly 20 percent.
The report warned that pro-Israel students and advocates should not be lulled into complacency, as detractor groups continued to employ controversial tactics to advance their agenda. These included “hostile disruptions of pro-Israel events” in an effort to silence dissenting voices, as well as the introduction of BDS resolutions on and around Jewish holidays.
“At Tufts University, [Students for Justice in Palestine] activists initiated a BDS vote just before the start of Passover, preventing Jewish students from debating and voting on divestment,” ICC noted. “At the University of Michigan, anti-Israel students erected a mock ‘Israeli apartheid wall’ during Rosh Hashanah. In a particularly offensive incident at [University of California, Santa Barbara], SJP announced a BDS campaign on Holocaust Remembrance Day, upsetting Jewish students and drawing harsh criticism from campus groups.”
Anti-Israel detractors also made appeals to university trustees and officials, encouraging them to divest from Israel. While efforts largely failed, ICC called on Israel’s supporters to “redouble their efforts to educate trustees about the hateful and divisive agenda motivating BDS activism.”