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December 4, 2017 5:09 pm

Watchdog: Jewish Voice for Peace ‘Masterminded’ Divestment Vote Targeting Israel at Tufts University on Passover

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Tufts University. Photo: Pete Jelliffe / Flickr.

Activists from the anti-Zionist group Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) “masterminded” a divestment resolution against Israel that passed at Tufts University in Massachusetts last Passover — a time when many Jewish students were away from campus, a watchdog group revealed.

The resolution — drafted by Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) — was debated and approved by the Tufts Community Union (TCU) student senate on the evening of April 9th, just one day before the beginning of Passover. The vote was widely denounced by Jewish and pro-Israel groups at the university, who noted that many of their members were unable to attend the vote due to their religious observance.

According to a new report on the incident by the anonymous campus watchdog group Canary Mission, SJP was rightly condemned “for their role in the exclusionary timing of the resolution.”

“However, upon closer examination, the entire episode was in fact masterminded by the fringe extremist organization Jewish Voice for Peace,” Canary Mission said.

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The group pointed to an audio-only broadcast of the divestment resolution hearing aired by TCU, which prohibited photography and video recording during the meeting to ensure the safety of attendees, according to its representatives.

Canary Mission identified “JVP leader” Hannah Freedman — who has since graduated — as saying (40:43) that the divestment vote was not scheduled for a TCU meeting held the previous week, as “many of us were away at a conference last weekend when we had had [sic.] the resolution ready — and so we decided to put it this weekend.”

Freedman did not disclose that the conference the students were attending “was the anti-Israel JVP National Member Meeting,” Canary Mission noted. Rather, Freedman said she and other resolution organizers “were pretty upset” when they heard about the conflict caused by the Jewish holiday, and therefore decided to allow students who would be away from campus to submit comments online.

(About 25 percent of these comments were read in a randomized order for 15 minutes during the hearing, according to Canary Mission — over 63 percent of which “either opposed the resolution or called for its tabling.”)

Notably, at least seven members of Tufts SJP participated in the JVP conference preceding the vote, where they “made a presentation and collaborated with senior JVP officials,” Canary Mission said.

When asked during the divestment hearing whether SJP consulted with any campus group besides JVP while drafting the resolution, Canary Mission identified SJP member and TCU senator Parker Breza as saying (36:20), “we didn’t actually talk to any other groups while we were drafting this resolution.”

By scheduling the vote right before Passover, “when most Jews would not be around to vote,” Canary Mission wrote, “JVP deliberately undermined the Jewish community at Tufts — in favor of giving themselves more time to strategize against Israel.”

According to the advocacy group Israel on Campus Coalition, anti-Zionist activists have been known to launch campaigns — including divestment resolutions — on and around Jewish holidays in order to limit the participation of observant students.

“At the University of Michigan, anti-Israel students erected a mock ‘Israeli apartheid wall’ during Rosh Hashanah,” ICC wrote in a report on the 2016-17 academic year. “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.”

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