George Washington University Students to Vote on Anti-Israel Divestment, Despite Initial Cancellation
George Washington University students are set to vote on a divestment resolution targeting Israel next week, after a debate on the resolution was unexpectedly cancelled on Monday over security concerns.
The Student Association Senate initially called off a hearing on divestment some ten minutes before it was set to begin, citing the university police department’s refusal to station officers in the meeting hall.
The senate’s executive vice president, Sydney Nelson, told The Hatchet student newspaper that the SA requests the presence of security personnel at any meeting that is expected to attract a high turnout. She said both students who support and oppose the resolution have raised safety concerns in the days preceding the meeting.
Some 30 supporters of the resolution staged a sit-in at the SA’s office following the cancellation, according to the paper. Divest This Time, the coalition that spearheaded the protest, announced on Tuesday that the SA has rescheduled the meeting for next Monday.
The divestment proposal in question — similar to one narrowly rejected on campus last spring — calls on GWU to divest from companies “profiting from” alleged violations of international law affecting Palestinians, and approvingly cites advances made by the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) campaign in the United States.
Divest This Time described the measure as a reaction to Israel’s “apartheid” policies against Palestinians, and showcased supportive testimonies from students on its Facebook page. The campaign — whose logo depicts Israel, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip as a single territory — also shared a personalized solidarity video filmed by BDS activists at the University of Cape Town in South Africa, alongside a quote falsely attributed to late South African President Nelson Mandela. The clip concluded with the message, “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” — a reference to the establishment of a Palestinian state in the territory from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, in place of Israel.
The campaign has drawn opposition from leading Jewish and Zionist groups on campus, including GW for Israel, which has launched a petition expressing opposition to the “one-sided” divestment resolution, while affirming “unyielding support for Palestinian rights.” It was also criticized by Stephen Joel Trachtenberg, a former GW president and current professor of public service, who argued that its “simplistic” and “discriminatory” narrative is both inaccurate and a clear extension of the BDS movement.
Yet some of the student clubs leading the divestment campaign have also been singled out for censure. On Sunday night, the anti-Zionist group Jewish Voice for Peace reported that its members had found “virulent, antisemitic” stickers on campus calling the group “fake news, fake Jews.”
Another note called Students for Justice in Palestine “antisemitic cowards,” and urged, “make BDS vote public.” The message — which was posted near flyers with the logo of Canary Mission, an anonymous website that profiles pro-BDS activists — referred to SJP’s calls for voting via paper ballot, in order to prevent students who support divestment from being included in Canary Mission’s public database.
Divest This Time GW accused Canary Mission of launching the “smear campaign” and harassing “Palestinian students, students organizing for palestinian human rights, and student senators.” The posters were also condemned by GW for Israel, which similarly called Canary Mission “a smear campaign that undermines both the values of our organization and the greater Jewish community.”
Canary Mission has dismissed the charges, saying it “does not poster campuses.”
“Individuals have in the past used our material to do so, without our involvement,” the group told The Algemeiner. “Canary Mission investigates hatred across the entire political spectrum, including the far right, far left and anti-Israel activists.”
Last month, a candidate for executive vice president of the GW Student Association came under fire after it was revealed that he called for a boycott of multicultural and interfaith events because they included GW Hillel and the Jewish Student Association. The student, who was previously endorsed by The Hatchet and claimed to have singled out the Jewish organizations because of his opposition to Israel, supported divestment while a senator last year.