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October 16, 2018 4:57 pm

New York University Students to Bring Forward BDS Resolution

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The NYU campus. Photo: File.

Students at New York University (NYU) plan to promote a resolution supportive of the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel in November, drawing opposition from some Zionist campus leaders.

The resolution will be brought forward on November 1 by three students senators including Rose Asaf, a co-founder of Jewish Voice for Peace at NYU, the student-run Washington Square News reported. It will be voted on through a secret ballot on December 6, after six speakers from each opposing side of the debate will be given two minutes to speak. Only NYU students will be allowed to attend.

Asaf said that the resolution will be “explicitly posed” as part of the BDS campaign, whose co-founder and other senior advocates have urged the creation of a Palestinian state in place of Israel. “A lot of the times at other universities, they’ll try to separate it from the BDS movement and say this is just divestment,” she noted. “We are explicitly saying that this is a result of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.”

Leaders with the student clubs TorchPAC and Realize Israel — both of which were subject to a boycott pledge by more than 50 BDS-supporting student clubs at NYU in April — expressed their concerns over the latest BDS initiative on campus to Washington Square News.

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“BDS infantilizes Palestinians, removing any responsibility or agency from their end,” said Gabe Hoffman, treasurer of Realize Israel, who noted that Israel has previously tried to negotiate peace with the Palestinians. “It hinders the prospects of a mutually agreed-upon peaceful solution and ultimately hurts the wrong people, namely, the near 50,000 Palestinians with jobs at risk if their firms are sanctioned.”

Asaf called this position “neo-colonial and paternalistic,” pointing out that Palestinian trade unions approve of BDS.

TorchPAC treasurer Joshua Reichek added in turn that he was “skeptical of singling out the only Jewish state for divestment.”

“While I do not agree with all of the policies of the Israeli Government, I would imagine that most people would rightly view an attempt to boycott Americans or divest from all American institutions due to Trump’s policies as ignorant and bigoted,” he added.

Adela Cojab, president of Realize Israel and a former senator, said the BDS debate pointed to a broader issue — namely, the lack of representation at the Student Government Assembly.

When she formerly served as a senator, Cojab said, she was discriminated against by her peers once they discovered her affiliation with Realize Israel.

“It’s very alarming that an entire demographic is excluded from representation on student government, and the resolution is being presented that affects that group directly,” she said. “We can argue the political points of BDS all we want we want, but if we take a step back and look at our student government, the way that it is functioning and the way that it excludes voices, we should realize that this is not a representative body of the university.”

In March, the SGA passed a resolution calling on NYU — which maintains a portal site in Tel Aviv — to issue “a formal memorandum to the State of Israel to remove its barricade of entry for NYU Students for Justice in Palestine and NYU Jewish Voice for Peace,” referencing a 2017 Israeli law barring entry to any foreigner who “knowingly issues a public call for boycotting Israel.”

The resolution also called on the school to “conduct a fully transparent review of its nondiscrimination policies for Palestinian, Middle Eastern and other affected students traveling to the State of Israel and attending NYU Tel Aviv.”

Realize Israel condemned the resolution at the time, saying it “makes biased and unfounded accusations against NYU Tel Aviv and the State of Israel as a whole.”

At a town hall meeting held in April, shortly after the boycott against TorchPAC and Realize Israel was announced, NYU President Andrew Hamilton reiterated his opposition to the BDS campaign.

“We believe the university exist to bring people together not to seperate them,” Hamilton said. “For this reason I am opposed to BDS. The university will not participate in boycotting of academics based in Israel. We believe in academic freedom and the free flow of ideas. Boycotting is antithetical to that vision.”

His comments were reportedly met with hisses.

Hamilton likewise called the BDS campaign “an affront to academic freedom” in a 2016 interview with the student-run newspaper NYU Local.

“To restrict in any way the flow of students or faculty from universities anywhere is something that I would find an affront to academic freedom,” he said. “[If] we are going to defend what we do in research, in areas of political science, in areas of gun violence, in areas of reproductive health, if we’re going to defend that to our own government, we will certainly defend that when it comes to our engagement with other governments, and so for me that speaks to BDS.”

Months earlier, a BDS motion passed by NYU’s Graduate Student Organizing Committee was declared void of “force or effect” by its parent body, the United Auto Workers International (UAW), on the grounds that it violated the organization’s constitutional bylaws.

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