On October 13th, 2017 the Austrian National Union of Students (ÖH) announced that it had become the first national student union to officially pass a resolution denouncing BDS. The ÖH also passed a version of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism. The resolution states BDS to be an anti-Semitic campaign and calls not to give it any space or supporting funds. The resolution, as reported by Greens and Alternative Students (GRAS) who introduced the motion, passed nearly unanimously; there were no opposing votes and only one abstention.
BDS Austria has suffered major legal and financial setbacks in the last two years. In April of last year, year BDS Austria saw its bank account with Austrian financial service company Erste Group closed. In March of this year, BDS Austria was barred from holding an anti-Israel event at the Vienna Cultural Institution. The cultural center issued a statement denouncing BDS and stating that, there is no place [in Austria] for any form or statement of anti-Semitism.” This denouncement of BDS follows the denouncing of BDS by Germany’s Leipzig University last year, displaying a hopeful trend across the university landscape of Europe.
American universities are also reevaluating past decisions regarding BDS, with first year College Council candidates at the University of Chicago stating that they, “generally disagreed with College Council’s past support for the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement.” The IHRA definition implemented by the Austrian Student’s Union is also used in the United States, albeit in a slightly altered form, by the U.S. Department of State. The definition is, however, only used for international monitoring.
This action taken by the Austrian Student’s Union displays the slow, but steady, disavowing of BDS taking place in legislatures and campuses across the world. With no home on Austrian campuses and their financial holdings in jeopardy, BDS Austria is finding that is has no hope of convincing Austrians that rhetoric comparing Israel and the Third Reich is acceptable.