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Anti-Semitic BDS Campaign Rejected by U of Michigan Students
Aviva Vogelstein Brandeis Blog
November 17, 2016

 

On Tuesday night, the anti-Semitic Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) Movement against Israel took yet another blow: the University Michigan Student Government voted down a BDS resolution by a wide margin of 34 against, 13 in favor, and 3 abstentions.

This marks the fifth BDS campaign at the University in the past 11 years that has sought to delegitimize and demonize the Jewish state. All five campaigns have been defeated. In the wake of these BDS campaigns, Michigan’s campus has seen some very ugly incidents towards Jewish and pro-Israel students.

In the Spring of 2014, LDB assisted Jewish students and university officials during the weeks following a failed divestment campaign. During this time, pro-Palestinian activists reportedly issued death threats to Jewish students and students who opposed divestment and called Jewish students epithets including “kike” and “dirty Jew.” LDB investigated, spoke with numerous students, and had several communications with administrators. Following the incident, University of Michigan officials sent campus-wide letters affirming civility and tolerance.

This did not stop BDS from reappearing. In the Spring of 2015, another BDS resolution brought by the anti-Israel, student group, “Students Allied for Freedom and Equality” (SAFE) was defeated yet again. During and after the divestment vote, hateful and anti-Semitic tweets were posted, including: “Palestine is 4 Palestinians not 4 a sick cult fm anywhere but Palestine with a sense of entitlement 2 it. Need that in Yiddish?”; “Over 500 children were slaughtered in the name of Jews worldwide. Zionism is a crime against Judaism, humanity and nature;” “Has anyone else noticed the zionazi trash talking on the #UMDivest thread this morning?”

Last Fall, SAFE initiated an “ethics probe” into a Jewish Student Senator in an attempt to remove him from his student government position. This “ethics probe” was a result of his public and civil condemnation of SAFE’s anti-Israel “apartheid wall,” which sought to delegitimize and demonize Israel. This display was positioned in the very center of campus on Nov. 19, 2015, the same day that two terrorist attacks occurred in Israel, killing five people including a Jewish-American student studying at a yeshiva for a year. Aside from the incredibly insensitive timing, the Jewish student was completely within his First Amendment rights. In early December, the Brandeis Center joined the ZOA, StandWithUs, and the Lawfare Project in urging the University of Michigan’s President to cease the persecution of this Jewish student. The University vindicated the Jewish student from any wrongdoing; however, the Jewish student described this period as “long, stressful process that included numerous threats and harassments by classmates and online trolls that went on for weeks after the investigation ended.”

Though troubles persist for Jewish and pro-Israel students at the University of Michigan and nationwide, and the Brandeis Center continues to monitor, the overwhelming defeat of this BDS campaign marks an important step in stomping out hate and anti-Semitism at Michigan and across our nation.

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Over 50% of Jewish American college students report that they experienced or witnessed anti-Semitism on their campuses during the 2013-2014 academic year. The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights has announced that campus anti-Semitism “is a serious problem which warrants further attention.” Campus anti-Semitism can include subjecting Jewish students to different treatment, harassment, violence or a hostile environment. In some cases, campus anti-Semitism is related to anti-Israel sentiment. In other cases, it is not. For most purposes, we define anti-Semitism according to the U.S. Department of State definition of anti-Semitism. .
 
 
 
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Alyza Lewin, Esq.
Alyza D. Lewin is a cofounder and partner in Lewin & Lewin, LLP, where she specializes in litigation and government relations.
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