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November 2, 2018 2:53 pm

New York University Students Introduce Divestment Resolution Targeting Israel

avatar by Shiri Moshe

A New York University (NYU) building near Washington Square Park. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Students at New York University introduced a resolution to support the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel on Thursday.

The measure — brought to the Student Government Assembly (SGA) by students affiliated with the anti-Zionist clubs Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) — calls for the university to pressure General Electric, Caterpillar, and Lockheed Martin to cease their involvement “in the violation of Palestinian human rights and human rights globally,” and pursue divestment if the companies fail to comply.

It describes the Palestinian-led BDS campaign as “an inclusive, anti-racist, and non-violent set of tools to pursue the Palestinian human rights movement,” which opposes all forms of discrimination, “including anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.”

Yet BDS has been strongly denounced by major Jewish communal bodies worldwide and in the United States, including for its leaders’ wholesale rejection of Zionism — a diverse movement that broadly supports the Jewish people’s right to national self-determination in their homeland. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) civil rights group has warned that the founding goals and “many of the strategies used by BDS campaigns are anti-Semitic.”

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The resolution — which did not mention any alleged violations by Palestinian factions in the ongoing conflict with Israel — will be debated on Dec. 6th by six students from each opposing side of the debate, and then voted on by secret ballot. It has been endorsed by 54 student groups, nearly all of whom signed a BDS pledge in April that extended the boycott to Zionist student clubs at NYU, as well as prominent off-campus Jewish and Zionist groups like the ADL. Signatories also agreed to boycott “Israeli goods and goods manufactured in the Occupied Territories, except for those manufactured by Palestinians” — an effort that would overwhelmingly target Jews.

“Clearly there’s a huge, huge passion for this on campus, and people are talking about it and it’s important for them,” said Alternate Senator-at-Large Leen Dweik while presenting the resolution on Thursday. “As a student government body which represents the students, it should therefore be our priority as well.”

Thirty-four faculty members have also extended their support to the measure — equal to the number of student clubs who announced a boycott of NYU’s study abroad program in Tel Aviv less than two weeks ago, after accusing Israel of engaging in “targeted discrimination against activists and Palestinian and Muslim students.” That declaration was rejected by NYU’s administration, which reiterated its “clear, long-standing policy opposing an academic boycott of Israel.”

“Contrary to the students’ belief, it is an academic boycott that violates the tenets of academic freedom, as the national [American Association of University Professors] itself has declared,” a spokesperson for the school said, noting that “no NYU student has been prevented from going to Israel, and a case involving a student from a different school” — namely Lara Alqasem, a former SJP leader at the University of Florida who was temporarily denied entry to Israel — “was reversed in court.”

In March, the SGA passed a resolution calling on NYU 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.”

JVP urged students last November not to visit Israel on a trip organized by NYU’s Bronfman Center for Jewish Student Life, partly on the basis that it opposes BDS. More than 20 student groups pledged to comply, including NYU College Democrats.

Months earlier, student activists published a 50-page “NYU Disorientation Guide” that equated Zionism with racism and called the Tel Aviv portal campus one of NYU’s “imperial projects.”

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