JNS/Jewish News Syndicate
(March 11, 2019 / JNS) The student government at Columbia University rejected a referendum on Sunday night calling on the school to support the movement to boycott Israel.
After a four-hour intense meeting consisting of more than 150 onlookers, the Columbia College Student Council failed to reach the two-thirds majority needed to pass the BDS proposal, similar to one in 2017 that also proved unsuccessful.
“Students worked very hard to defeat this BDS campaign and should be commended for their work. Columbia/Barnard Hillel will continue to invest in connecting students to Israel, including the more than 200 who travel to Israel with Hillel annually. This continued investment has never been more important,” its executive director, Brian Cohen, told JNS.
“While I am relieved that the vote will be the end of BDS on campus for now, damage has been done: These votes polarize campus and contribute to a difficult environment for Jewish students,” he said. “I am proud of our students, who spoke so eloquently and passionately about Israel, the danger BDS poses both to Israelis and Palestinians, and the negative ways it impacts the campus community.”
Jewish and pro-Israel groups heralded the result.
“A politically diverse coalition of students came together to oppose the discriminatory proposal,” said Rena Nasar, StandWithUs managing director of campus affairs. “They successfully argued that it failed to meet CCSC’s requirement that referendum questions be fairly worded, feasible, and in adherence with the mission and policies of CCSC and Columbia College.”
AMCHA Initiative director Tammi Rossman-Benjamin told JNS that “we commend Columbia students for seeing through the BDS charade. Everyone knows these resolutions carry no weight. Their only purpose is to divide the campus, shut down legitimate discourse and debate, induce hate, and marginalize and ostracize those on campus who support, or are presumed to support, Israel—namely, the vast majority of Jewish students.”
“In fact, research demonstrates that the more BDS, the more anti-Semitism on campus,” she continued. “Kudos to Columbia for rejecting intolerant BDS.”
“The pro-Israel students at Columbia deserve enormous credit. They opposed this resolution with courage and confidence,” Maccabee Task Force executive director David Brog told JNS. “And they did so together as a community, despite organizational differences. They prove that the truth about Israel is still compelling, and that unity is still powerful.”
He added that “while the vote was closer than we would have liked, this victory in such a challenging environment should encourage pro-Israel students across the country.”
While representatives for B’nai B’rith breathed a sigh of relief, they also expressed caution.
“While the vote appears on the surface to be a partial victory for those rejecting BDS, it’s only on a technicality that it wasn’t adopted,” the organization told JNS in a statement. “That so many voted in favor of BDS speaks to the deeply troubling nature of pro-BDS activity on university campuses.”
Masha Merkulova, founder and executive director of Club Z, told JNS that being pro-active on campus works.
“Columbia’s students proved once again that when it comes to BDS, being pro-active is what works. Having a strong presence of openly pro-Israel community, and normalizing Zionism as an inseparable part of Jewish identity is what will continue to make a difference on campuses across the country.”
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