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March 15, 2022 4:09 pm

Tufts University Rejects Anti-Zionist Boycott of Jewish-Led Student Groups

avatar by Dion J. Pierre

Eaton Hall at Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts. Photo: Jellymuffin40 / Wikimedia Commons

Tufts University and Jewish students have denounced an anti-Zionist group for targeting Jewish-led clubs and trips to Israel as part of a recently announced boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) campaign.

Tufts Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) urged students to sign a pledge supporting BDS, which opposes Israel’s continued existence as a Jewish nation-state. Signatories were instructed to boycott goods targeted by BDS, including Israeli fruits and vegetables, as well as products by Sabra, Puma, AXA, SodaStream, and Ahava, a manufacturer of skincare products.

SJP likewise asked students to “refuse to be involved with advocacy groups that normalize Israel and seek to improve its economic, social, and political standing” — specifically naming campus organizations Tufts Birthright Israel, J Street U Tufts, TAMID, Friends of Israel, and Tufts Hillel’s Visions of Peace program.

The list also included a summer fellowship with the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), a prominent Jewish civil rights group that SJP described on Monday in the Tufts Observer as “a Zionist nonprofit” that “claims to fight antisemitism” but has a history of “sabotaging progressive movements.”

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Speaking to The Algemeiner on Tuesday, Tufts University spokesperson Patrick Collins called the campaign “divisive and harmful,” and said it would “ostracize” fellow students from important conversations around difficult issues.

“As we have stated in the past, the university rejects the BDS movement, elements of which we believe are rooted in antisemitism. We strongly oppose this renewed campaign at Tufts,” Collins said. “It is particularly disappointing that the Students for Justice in Palestine have chosen to ask fellow students to boycott not just companies but other student groups on campus.”

Tufts Hillel likewise condemned SJP’s “biased and inaccurate” statement on Monday, noting that the programs and student clubs being singled out for boycott “represent a wide spectrum of views on Israel whose main overlap is that they are committed to productive dialogue.”

“Unlike SJP, we firmly believe that dialogue is the only route to deeper understanding between people of divergent views and a lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians,” they added.

SJP has previously drawn criticism from the Jewish community at Tufts. The school’s student senate passed an SJP-drafted divestment resolution targeting four companies over their ties to Israel in April 2017, while many Jewish students were away from campus for Passover.

In another incident, Tufts SJP filed a complaint against Max Price, a Jewish member of the school’s student judiciary council, alleging that his involvement in a 2020 anti-Israel referendum was tainted by bias. SJP later withdrew the complaint, citing concerns about security and privacy.

Jewish on Campus (JOC), a youth-run advocacy group for Jewish students, denounced Tufts SJP’s latest efforts as antisemitic.

“SJP provides a litmus test with their demands, saying that they will accept Jews as long as they renounce Zionism,” JOC wrote on Monday. “Even though their claim is anti-Zionism, coercion and conditional support of Jews is antisemitism in its purest forms.”

Tufts SJP did not respond to The Algemeiner’s request for comment in time for publication.

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