Texas A&M University Senate Denounces ‘Antisemitic’ BDS Campaign, Extends Support to Jewish, Israeli Students
Student leaders at Texas A&M University in College Station approved a resolution late Wednesday that condemns boycotts of Israel and commits to welcoming Jewish and Israeli peers.
The legislation was introduced during the Student Senate’s open session and adopted with a vote of 38 in favor, six against, and 12 abstentions.
“Israel has been and continues to be one of America’s strongest allies,” read the measure, which pointed to bilateral trade ties between the Jewish state and Texas that “faculty and students continue to benefit from.”
Acknowledging the uptick in antisemitic incidents recorded by the Anti-Defamation League in the US in 2017, the resolution came out strongly against the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel, calling it “anti-Semitic in its effect, if not in its intent.”
After embracing “Jewish and Israeli students as a valued member of the Aggie family,” the legislation said the Student Senate would “not facilitate, promote, or participate in any activities that promote BDS or any other form of anti-Semitism.”
It also recommended that no campus group “support, contribute to, or receive contributions from BDS,” while expressing respect for the free speech rights of students.
BDS has frequently been accused of fostering a climate of antisemitism, particularly on college campuses. A 2016 study by Brandeis University found that the presence of an active branch of Students for Justice in Palestine — an anti-Zionist group that often spearheads BDS initiatives — is “one of the strongest predictors of perceiving a hostile climate toward Israel and Jews.” Likewise, a 2015 study by the watchdog group AMCHA Initiative found that activity related to BDS “is the strongest predictor of anti-Jewish hostility on campus.”
Jacob Powell, a freshman student senator from the College of Engineering who helped author the resolution, told The Algemeiner that he first learned about BDS in high school through his involvement in youth groups and Jewish summer camps.
“I wanted to make sure Texas A&M defended the nation and stood up for Israel as a proud ally,” he said, noting that the Student Senate previously approved measures expressing support for academic partnerships with Israel in 2015.
“I thought denouncing [BDS] would be a great way to build off of previous senate sessions in promoting Israel,” Powell explained, “as well as expose BDS as an antisemitic organization.”
He refined the language of the legislation with Olivia Krog, a leading student senator who worked to gather support from different caucuses before she and Powell jointly introduced the resolution to their peers. The ensuing debate — about two hours long — included both expressions of approval for the measure, as well as concerns that the student body would be taking a stand on a political issue outside its purview.
Several senators opposed an explicit statement of support for Israel that was included in an initial draft, which was removed following negotiations led by Krog in order to avoid the impression that the student government favors one party in a foreign conflict.
“What I am against is taking a side as the Student Senate on a conflict like this,” Legislative Affairs Chair Katina Economides told the school’s student newspaper. “Because while we do have Israeli students, we also have students from all these other regions.”
The resolution, which ultimately passed to applause, “represents the voice and opinion of Texas A&M’s approximately 64,000 students,” said Krog, and “provides the foundation necessary to accomplish further progress with the faculty and administration of the university.”
“Most importantly,” she emphasized, “it sets a precedent, telling prospective students that Texas A&M welcomes members of the Jewish and Israeli communities with open arms, reaffirming the student body’s commitment of no tolerance for anti-Semitism and the BDS agenda, and perhaps most significantly, serving as the torchbearer for other universities to follow.”
As a formal opinion of the student body, the resolution will be upheld by the Texas A&M student government for the rest of the academic year, Powell said.
Later on, it may be used “as a strong counterargument to any potential BDS activity, both within student government and within student organizations,” he added.
This view was shared by Elad Dermer, president of the Aggie Students Supporting Israel chapter on campus, of which Powell is a member.
Dermer — who spoke in favor of the resolution before the Student Senate — indicated that if a BDS campaign is launched at Texas A&M in the future, opponents will be able to cite this resolution, as well as the two that were passed in 2015, when raising their objections.
As for now, with the exception of some faculty members, the campus is not hostile to Zionist students, Dermer observed. There are efforts to promote “diversity” on campus, he noted, “so there is not an anti-Israel agenda here [among] student organizations.”