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Anti-Israel activists fail as Columbia student government rejects BDS referendum

‘We will know it will tear our community apart’

Supporters of the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement failed again at Columbia University, but they got closer this time.

The Columbia College Student Council, which represents undergraduates, rejected a proposed referendum on the anti-Israel movement at a tense four-hour meeting Sunday night, the Columbia Daily Spectator reports.

But unlike the body’s 2017 vote against a similar resolution, Sunday night’s vote was anonymous and the proposed referendum went down on a narrow majority, showing anti-Israel activists had made gains.

They also convinced Columbia’s sibling women’s college Barnard to include a BDS resolution on a referendum a year ago, which the student body passed by a nearly two-thirds majority.

The Columbia council meeting “saw two student representatives threaten to quit the council, and drew tears from attendees,” according to the Spectator.

MORE: Gender studies is hotbed for BDS faculty activism

Only 19 students were let into the room while more than 130 others were forced into an overflow room where they could watch but not ask questions or debate:

Opponents to BDS pointed to the past Barnard referendum as reason for CCSC to vote down this referendum, asserting that Jewish students felt targeted by the vote and the surrounding debate last semester. Many shared personal experiences with anti-Semitism and division on campus during the debate around the Barnard referendum. …

“We will know it will tear our community apart. … This is a permanent wound that we won’t be able to heal from,” CCSC Vice President for Finance Adam Resheff, CC ’19, said.

Resheff and CCSC Representative for Disabilities Services Aaron Liberman, CC ’19, said they would quit their positions if the council voted to present the referendum to the student body.

Pro-Palestinian speakers said they didn’t want their tuition money to support causes they oppose and want to give the student body a voice.

The council chose to do a secret ballot because several members “shared stories of feeling personally threatened or confronted about their public votes to include a referendum in 2017,” according to the Spectator. After the vote, pro-Palestine students chanted “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” which is code for Israel’s destruction.

The issue is moot for Columbia’s administration. President Lee Bollinger said last week he would ignore any calls for divestment because of the lack of “consensus” on campus.

Pro-Israel advocacy group StandWithUs cheered the student government for opposing the “discriminatory campaign” against Israel.

“A politically diverse coalition of students came together” to demonstrate that the proposed referendum was not “fairly worded, feasible, and in adherence with the mission and policies” of the body and college, said Rena Nasar, StandWithUs managing director of campus affairs, in an email statement.

MORE: Columbia students shout down Israel’s ambassador to U.N.

IMAGE: KelseyJ/Shutterstock

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