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University of Minnesota students pass anti-Israel boycott proposition


A similar initiative at the University of Illinois was voted down

Two proposals related to the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement were voted on last week at two American universities. One passed, another failed.

An anti-Israel boycott proposal passed at the University of Minnesota last week while one at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign was rejected.

The University of Minnesota referendum, put forward by Students for Justice in Palestine, carried with a relatively narrow vote margin of of 3,392 to 3,175, according to The Algemeiner.

“Should the students of the University of Minnesota demand the Board of Regents divest from companies that are 1) complicit in Israeli violations of Palestinian human rights, 2) maintaining and establishing private prisons and immigrant detention centers, or 3) violating Indigenous sovereignty?” the referendum asked student voters.

In a statement, University of Minnesota president Eric Kaler called the proposal “flawed,” stating that the university “does not endorse — and I personally oppose — the action advocated in the referendum.”

“In the past, I have stood firmly and vocally against anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic incidents on our campuses. I stand now against the results of this referendum and its potential harmful impact to our campus climate,” Kaler said.

Kaler pointed out that the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement “does not seem to distinguish between opposition to the policies of the government of Israel and opposition to the existence of Israel.”

In a statement on its Facebook page, the University of Minnesota’s Hillel group said that there are “no true winners in this election.”

“Hillel is committed to bringing our campus community together, and we hope to continue working with all of you in the coming weeks, months, and years toward productive programs that are in keeping with Hillel and the University’s shared values of ending bias and promoting inclusion,” the group said.

The University of Minnesota’s chapters of Chabad and Students for Justice in Palestine both did not respond to repeated requests for comment from The College Fix.

At the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, meanwhile, a boycott referendum promoted by the group UIUC Divest failed with a final vote tally of 3,133 to 1,700. That referendum called for “the manager’s [sic] of the University Endowment Pool” to “sell its holdings” in 17 different companies, including Tyson Foods, Raytheon and Citigroup, according to UIUC Divest.

In the university’s Spring 2018 Student Election and Referendum, student voters were asked: “Shall the University divest, or withdraw investments, from specified companies in the University’s BlackRock portfolio that actively normalize, engage in, or fund human rights violations as defined by the United Nation’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights?” That proposal failed by a 65% margin.

UIUC Divest held that the named companies “normalize, engage in or fund recognized violations of human rights, including those of the Palestinian people and all peoples marginalized on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion, sexuality, gender, class, and ability.”

The student group United Illinois for a United Campus wrote on its Facebook page that the failed divestment referendum was “part of the global anti-Israel movement known as Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) which attempts to delegitimize Israel and the Jewish People through economic and political pressure.”

“The effort’s ultimate goal,” the post continued, was “to force students to question their connection to their faith or their national homeland, or their support for their peers with those identities, while intentionally creating a divided and hostile campus.”

University of Illinois Chancellor Robert Jones had previously come out against the idea of a boycott of Israel, saying in an interview last month that “the campus and the entire university system are on record in opposition to any boycott of Israeli academic institutions and have opposed divestment measures in the past.”

UPDATED: Following the publication of this article, Rabbi Yitzi Steiner of the University of Minnesota’s Chabad chapter sent The Fix Chabad’s statement on Facebook, which reads, in part: “The Jewish people are all too familiar with false canards and excuses for hate and discrimination. Pretending to be defenders of human rights, the BDS movement wishes one thing and one thing only-the destruction of Israel, as they don’t mention any other country that is actually violating human rights in the referendum.”

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MORE: Jewish students fight back against ‘Zionism is Racism’ events at Columbia

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About the Author
Matthew Stein -- Swarthmore College