Jewish Group at University of Maryland Laments ‘Insensitive’ Plan for BDS Vote on Passover
A resolution supporting the controversial boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel will be considered by student leaders at the University of Maryland next week, as Jewish students celebrate Passover, the campus Hillel said.
In a Wednesday email to community members, Maryland Hillel staff member Elan Burman said the bill was submitted to UMD’s Student Government Association (SGA) and will be brought to a vote on April 24.
The measure calls upon the “administration to divest from companies engaged in human rights violations in Palestine,” and is supported by groups including Students for Justice in Palestine under the auspices of the Divest UMD campaign.
“The timing of this resolution is particularly insensitive given that many Jewish students will be away from campus this weekend for Passover, and will be celebrating the intermediary days of the holiday when the vote takes place,” noted Burman, whose group rejects divestment.
UMD Divest told the Algemeiner in a statement on Wednesday that next week’s meeting was unfortunately “the last possible SGA Meeting that our bill could be heard, as the First Reading was today.”
“The only SGA meeting that is after the 24th of April is solely for Omnibus, so our bill would not be allowed to be heard,” the statement continued. “But, if the SGA agrees, we are definitely open to pushing the hearing to another date this semester to ensure all student voices can be heard.”
The resolution has already been endorsed by several campus groups, including the UMD Pride Alliance, UMD Young Democratic Socialists of America, and African Student Association, among others.
“Zionism is terrorism,” the UMD Muslim Alliance for Social Change wrote in a solidarity statement shared by UMD Divest, in reference to a movement that champions the Jewish people’s right to self-determination in the Levant.
“This is a battle against Zionism, a movement that does not define our Jewish brothers and sisters, but instead characterizes those who lack a sense of humanity and withhold an abnormal level of nationalism for Israel,” the statement continued.
Opponents of the campaign — which last failed to gain SGA endorsement in 2017 — argue that it delegitimizes, demonizes, and applies a double standard to Israel.
A petition promoted by the Terps United Against BDS coalition noted that “BDS campaigns can create a hostile campus atmosphere that singles out Jewish and pro-Israel students, and subjects them to intimidation and bullying.”
“We know that BDS fosters an environment that can lead to anti-Semitism that immediately stifles conversation among campus stakeholders,” the petition read.
It also pointed to long-standing concerns that the BDS campaign supports Palestinian rights while opposing Israel’s existence, thereby diminishing “the chance of peace between Israelis and Palestinians.”
BDS supporters on multiple campuses have in the past drawn condemnation for introducing divestment resolutions during or immediately before Jewish holidays, when many members of the Jewish community are either off-campus or engaged in religious observance.
After a BDS resolution passed at Tufts University days before Passover in 2017, a time when the local Hillel said many Jewish students were away, an activist with the Israel education and advocacy group StandWithUs described the “undemocratic” tactic as an attempt to silence Zionist student voices.
This article has been updated to include comments by UMD Divest.