Amid Backlash, Pomona Student Government ‘Tables’ BDS Resolution to Strip Funds From Jewish Groups That Refuse Israel Boycott
by Jordan Esrig
A recently-passed Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) resolution at Pomona College that has been criticized by the institution’s president and an academic freedom group was tabled for further discussion on Thursday during a contentious Zoom meeting, the student publication The Claremont Independent reported.
The resolution, which called for defunding student clubs that do not participate in a student government-sanctioned boycott of Israel, had been criticized by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), which warned that it could “seriously imperil the rights of student organizations that are either pro-Israel or prefer not to take a position.”
During the closed Zoom meeting, the Associated Students of Pomona College (ASPC) faced backlash from other students over its BDS bill — resulting in the student government “tabling” the part of the resolution which would have defunded student clubs that do not boycott a United Nations Human Rights Council-drafted blacklist that includes major Israeli and American businesses.
After Pomona’s BDS bill attracted the ire of Jewish organizations who denounced it as antisemitic, student senators at the meeting were split on how to respond. “This is intended .. to target the occupation of the territory of the Israeli state supported by companies that do that,” said one student senator. “The idea that this has something to do with Jewish groups on campus … I truly don’t know where that came from … it’s relevance is none.”
Another student in favor of the bill explained that, “the Claremont Colleges have a long … streak of anti-Palestinian violence,” adding that criticism of the bill for a double standard evoked a “a very ‘All Lives Matter’ vibe.” Pomona College is a liberal arts college in Southern California and a member of the Claremont College consortium, along with Claremont McKenna, Harvey Mudd, Scripps, and Pitzer colleges.
Other students at the meeting pushed back. “I’m not in favor of restricting Jewish organizations from receiving the goods and foodstuffs that are part of their tradition,” said one student senator. Another said that “I think I failed in some capacity to include the advisory board in some capacity in this discussion. ASPC should continue to affirm the legitimacy and critical function of the advisory board.”
In a statement following the April 22 passage of the resolution, Pomona College President G. Gabrielle Starr voiced concern that the “vote was held without representation from any student opposition,” and criticized its goal to require student clubs to boycott Israel as “deeply concerning,” imploring the ASPC to “reverse course.”
“The independence of student government in passing its resolutions is important, but so is the representation of the student body as a whole and given the lack of debate and the passions this vote may stir, we want to convey our deep concern,” she said.
Another student at the Thursday Zoom meeting admitted his discomfort with the bill’s specific targeting of Israel, “[w]ith China and the Uyghur issue and the Hong Kong situation and the Taiwan situation … why just this group and this one country [Israel]? Why aren’t we doing a bunch of countries at once?”
Ultimately, ASPC decided to “table” the resolution to defund student clubs not supporting the BDS boycott for further discussion.