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April 8, 2022 4:31 pm

Jewish Students at Princeton University ‘Concerned’ Over Upcoming Anti-Israel Vote

avatar by Dion J. Pierre

Princeton University in New Jersey. Photo: Yakinodi /Flickr.

A planned student vote weighing whether Princeton University should stop using construction equipment manufactured by Caterpillar, Inc. over the company’s business in Israel has prompted pushback from some Jewish students worried about its effect on the campus climate.

The referendum, which is set for a campus-wide vote on April 11-13, asks whether Princeton undergraduates should call on the university to “immediately halt usage of all Caterpillar machinery in all ongoing campus construction projects given the violent role that Caterpillar machinery has played in the mass demolition of Palestinian homes, the murder of Palestinians and other innocent people, and the promotion of the prison-industrial complex.”

It cites Caterpillar’s listing as “one of the only targeted construction companies” by the Palestinian-led boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel.

Jared Stone, president of the student group Tigers for Israel, believes that despite the referendum’s seemingly limited focus, it serves as a way to “import” the BDS conversation to campus, he told The Algemeiner.

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“Because the BDS movement has become such a virulent and toxic force on American and global college campuses, stifling dialogue and ensuring the presence of a hateful and un-constructive environment for Jewish and Zionist students, I, as a proud and practicing Jewish student and Zionist who believes in a sustained peace in the region, am quite concerned about its presence,” Stone said.

Some opponents of the measure have formed around the social media campaign Tigers United, Stone said.

“BDS, when it appears on American college campuses, has a deleterious effect on Jewish and Zionist students. Hate crimes and antisemitism have increased immensely because of its presence,” he continued. “And the passage of BDS referenda has only contributed to a snowball effect allowing BDS to spread and metastasize at universities in America and across the globe.”

A March report by AMCHA Initiative, a campus antisemitism watchdog, found that faculty support for the BDS movement was strongly correlated with a spike in antisemitic incidents at US colleges seen in May 2021. Some 50 Princeton faculty and staff signed a letter that month, which saw an 11-day conflict between Israel and Hamas, describing Israel as a system “ideologically founded on Jewish supremacy.”

Language for the upcoming Caterpillar referendum, which was written by the Princeton Committee on Palestine (PCP), was approved at an Undergraduate Student Government session in March, according to a Daily Princetonian report. During the debate, PCP’s president pointed to the use of Caterpillar machinery in work on Princeton’s art museum, among other projects, and charged the company with complicity in “some really despicable and inhumane purposes.”

On Tuesday, Stone recalled a February 22 demonstration held by PCP members outside Princeton’s Center for Jewish Life to protest Israel programming, where they brandished signs that said “From the river to the sea” and “Interning on stolen land?”

“The way they conducted themselves and the language the used to address the situation at hand was deeply concerning,” Stone told The Algemeiner. “Some of the signs the protestors brought denied the Jewish connection to their historic homeland in the State of Israel, trying to relabel Jewish cities with other names. And furthermore, they decided to stage the protest outside the main entrance of the cradle of Jewish life and Jewish engagement on campus.”

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