A Win Against The BDS Movement at Cornell

April 25, 2014

Last Thursday, April 10th, the Student Assembly of Cornell University, with a 15-8-1 majority, voted to table Resolution 72 indefinitely thanks in part to members of the pro-Israel and CAMERA supported CCAP group on campus, CIPAC, who made a strong case.

R. 72 is a resolution that was drawn up by Cornell’s anti-Israel group “Students for Justice in Palestine” (SJP) asking that the University “end its complicity with the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories and divest its holdings from… companies…that profit directly from Israeli military occupation.”  The resolution calls for the University’s divestment from companies like SodaStream (whose spokesperson Scarlett Johansson recently stated that the reason behind attempts to boycott the company was that “there’s a lot of anti-Semitism out there“), Tata Motors, Raytheon, etc.

Soda Stream

Soda Stream

SJP states that this is not an extension or variant of the BDS movement because, unlike boycotting Israeli companies, resolution 72 “simply names six companies that benefit from the occupation, only one of which is Israeli.” This claim is merely a technicality that the SJP is resting on so as not to seem anti-Israel.  These companies directly support Israel and divestment from these companies has the same effect on the nation as that of an Israeli company.

Cornell University

Cornell University

Furthermore, the SJP‘s intentions are supposedly to save the world from an oppressive people and human rights violators, but if so, it is absurd to focus solely on Israel. It is hypocritical for students concerned about human rights to focus on Israel and not on other countries with a worse human rights record.  Also, if they are concerned with justice for Palestinians, why aren’t they pushing any resolutions regarding Syria where thousands of Palestinians have been killed, or regarding Jordan where their rights are limited, or other countries like these? The focus on Israel alone is clearly indicative of a misinformed anti-Israel group with the goal of delegitimizing a population and a nation.

Our Fellow at Cornell

Our Fellow at Cornell

Not only is the resolution hypocritical, but the vote on whether or not the Student Assembly will review such legislature was hastily assembled by the SJP with the hopes that it would catch the pro-Israel groups off guard.  The SJP brought this resolution to the assembly with the hopes that the motion would pass within 48 hours and proceed to be voted on the following week—on Passover.  The SJP undoubtedly knew that because of the upcoming holiday, if the motion was passed, many of the people petitioning against this resolution would be away from campus and therefore not present to oppose it.  It is appalling that a group who allegedly fights for justice and democracy would be so unjust and undemocratic in terms of its means for getting this resolution passed.

On the day of the vote, the assembly room was packed with both a majority of pro-Israel students and a bit over a dozen anti-Israel students. The assembly’s vote tabled the resolution indefinitely without discussion. Once the vote was cast, about a dozen anti-Israel advocates walked out and proceeded to boo and jeer as the pro-Israel students remained seated and applauded the decision.

William Jacobson, a clinical professor at Cornell Law School, wrote on his Legal Insurrection blog that the “intention to bring the resolution to the Student Assembly was not made in regular order [and] was concealed from Jewish and pro-Israel groups on campus even though it has been in the works for weeks.”

After the vote, Cornell student Jacob Glick writes in the Cornell Daily Sun that “the administration would never have truly divested from companies benefiting from Israel’s presence in the West Bank.” The need for dialogue is evident but those cannot exist if, when an unfavorable decision or remark is made, the anti-Israel students walk away from the table as they did on the day of the vote.  The assembly was right to thwart this attempt by SJP as delegitimizing.

Had these students been truly concerned about the welfare of Palestinians, they would have pushed to enhance cooperation between Israel and Cornell. As Cornell student Adam Schlussel ’16, writes in Boycotting Israel Hurts Palestinians, “Cornell is associated with Israeli academia and businesses, both of which actually benefit Israeli-Arabs and Palestinians. Twenty percent of the Technion’s students are Israeli Arabs, who are major contributors Israel’s high tech culture. Many Palestinians are employed by Israeli companies, and they almost always receive better wages than they would in Palestinian cities.”

Contributed by CAMERA intern Sabrina Fried.

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