Students for Justice in Palestine wants to pass BDS “at this Ivory Tower on stolen Cayuga land.”
A coalition of student groups led by Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) is renewing a Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) effort at Cornell University, where I teach.
We have documented here many times how BDS has a direct connection to the anti-Jewish boycotts in the 1920s and 1930s in the then British Mandate for Palestine, the anti-Jewish boycott of the Arab League (which was put in place three years prior to Israeli’s independence), and the gross antisemitic activism at the 2001 Tehran and Durban conferences which launched boycotts in the current form.
The claim that BDS was a response to a 2005 call from Palestinian civil society is a demonstrable lie. That was the cover story to repackage an anti-Jewish boycott in the language of ‘social justice’, as documented in my lecture, The REAL history of the BDS movement.
2014 BDS Attempt Failed
There is a long history of BDS efforts trying to stop Cornell’s ties with The Technion in developing a tech campus in New York City. BDS supporters on campus tried to stop Cornell from entering into the joint venture, as we documented in 2012:
- Cornell’s Tech Campus Irks Pro-Palestine Group
- Cornell physicist speaks out against campus “attempt to make Israel illegitimate”
They failed. Miserably. The emerging Cornell Tech campus is the jewel not only of the high tech community in NYC, but also of the greater Cornell community which is integrating educational offerings between Ithaca and the NYC campus.
The last time BDS was tried at Cornell, in spring semester 2014, the effort resulted in a crushing defeat for the BDS effort in the Student Assembly.
The 2014 effort started with an attempt to ambush pro-Israel and Jewish students by bringing a BDS resolution to the Student Assembly over Passover. That backfired and generated enormous publicity.
- ALERT: Sneak Passover Anti-Israel Divestment attack at Cornell
- Cornell Anti-Israel Divestment Group Doubles Down on Passover Strategy
- Cornell Student Assembly fracturing over Passover BDS push
Student opposed to injecting BDS into the campus were caught off guard, but succeeded in educating the community and assembly members to counter the distorted one-sided simplistic demonization of Israel and Zionism. The Student Assembly never voted on the proposed BDS resolution, instead voting to table the resolution indefinitely by a vote of 15-8-1:
The Cornell Student Assembly voted late this afternoon to table indefinitely a Resolution to Divest from companies doing business in Israel….
This is a crushing defeat for SJP — maybe one of the most decisive yet on any campus.
Intimidation of Pro-Israel Students
That crushing defeat led to some very ugly scenes on campus, including physical attempts after to vote by pro-BDS activists and students to intimidate people (including me, watch to end of video below).
Efforts to “untable” the resolution failed despite aggressive protests by BDS supporters.
The hostility continued into the next academic year, and if anything worsened. SJP students and Ithaca activists engaged in physical and verbal intimidation of pro-Israel students, as I documented in the November 2014 post, Cornell Pro-Israel students taunted: “F**k You Zionist scums”:
On November 19, 2014, Cornell Students for Justice in Palestine organized a mock Israeli checkpoint at Ho Plaza, a central student gathering point on campus between the Cornell Bookstore and Willard Straight Hall, where many student activities are centered.
Casey Breznick, Editor in Chief of the Cornell Review and an author at Legal Insurrection, has the story at the Cornell Review Blog of a confrontation that took place when a group of pro-Israel students counter-protested holding Israeli flags and signs calling for peace.
Here is video we put together based on footage provided to us by multiple student sources, showing yang-stevens pulling the same ploy she pulled on me last April, claiming that the student had his camera in her face (which he denies both in the video and also in communications with me), as yang-stevens taunted the pro-Israel student to hit her. As another person shouted out “Fuck you Zionist scums” ….
The intimidation in the video above was not the only incident that day, “I will f**king slap you” – More Cornell anti-Israel intimidation:
We previously posted video of anti-Israel protesters getting in the face (literally) of pro-Israel students at Cornell who were holding counter-protest signs, Cornell Pro-Israel students taunted: “F**k You Zionist scums”.
The incident depicted in the prior video actually was the second incident of the day, I have learned.
Prior to that confrontation, Ilan Kaplan, a Cornell student on leave but who is still active in the Cornell Jewish community, alleges he was accosted as he held a sign, had his sign torn out of his hands, had water thrown on him, and was threatened. Here is my interview with Kaplan:
Things seemed to calm down on campus with regard to Israel for a while (though conservative students and speakers continued to face intimidation).
In May 2017, however, SJP students invaded the room in which Hillel was holding an Israel Independence Event, took over part of the space, and staged a “die in.” The Hillel students reacted perfectly, WATCH: Pro-Israel Cornell students joyously sing and dance in face of anti-Israel “die in”:
At Cornell we mostly have great students. This is a story about some of those great students at an Israel Independence Day event who reacted in a powerful way when a small group of students from the anti-Israel Students for Justice in Palestine disrupted the event.
You may recall that there have been problems with anti-Israel activists on campus disrupting any positive event about Israel. Anti-Israel activists were the vanguard of the campus anti-free speech movement, as I documented in With campus shout downs, first they came for the Jews and Israel. At places like Berkeley, Jewish students have to find non-disclosed locations for pro-Israel events.
Intimidation tactics by anti-Israel students have not been as big a problem at Cornell as on some other campuses, but a dozen or twenty people can cause a lot of trouble. In November 2014, anti-Israel students, assisted by Ithaca activists, tried to physically intimidate pro-Israel students. I covered the story, Cornell Pro-Israel students taunted: “F**k You Zionist scums” (Video at the link).
In the latest attempt at intimidation, Cornell Students for Justice in Palestine organized a disruption and takeover of an Israel Independence Day event organized by Hillel and various pro-Israel student groups….
One of the Cornell SJP students, Piragash Swargaloganathan, conducted a pro-Palestinian eventrecently and I’ve not heard any reports that pro-Israel students tried to disrupt it or take it over. I guess that being able to disrupt others’ speech while having your own speech protected is a pro-Palestinian privilege.
The SJP students, having physically disrupted and taken over an event, then claimed that they were the victims of intimidation, as The Sun reported further:
At one point on Monday evening, SJP members told police that someone had attempted to push and trip one of their members during the altercation, but the officer said he had not seen anything. SJP members then told the officer that they would file an incident report.
SJP student Hadiyah Chowdhury told The Sun that the SJP students were the victim of police racism:
“We were really disrespected by the police, who ignored an incident of physical harassment in which one of our members was shoved,” she said. “We are really disappointed by the way CUPD treated us and are certain it was a result of racism.”
Instead of meeting force with force, the pro-Israel students went one better.
They formed a large dance circle near the “die in” protesters…
This video had over 100,000 views on Facebook:
New Push For BDS at Cornell
BDS activism continued on campus, but did not result in a new attempt to pass a BDS resolution in the Student Assembly until now.
SJP put together a coalition of student groups to target companies supposedly participating in Israel’s alleged human rights abuses, and wants the university to divest from those companies. This is the new BDS tactic used around the country by SJP and related groups. Rather than seeking cut in educational ties and other boycotts mandated by the BDS movement, they try to narrow the issue. That allows them to try to convince student governments that otherwise would not support BDS to pass a resolution with the excuse that they’re not against Israel and don’t want Israel destroyed (which is the goal of BDS and its supporters), they just are against these few companies. This type of resolution is an intellectual subterfuge, and attempt to sell BDS-lite.
Cornell SJP has announced the launch of its campaign.
In a Facebook announcement SJP made clear the proposed resolution is part of BDS:
In 2014, a sickeningly racist campus climate revealed itself when the Student Assembly voted with only one dissenting vote to “indefinitely” table a resolution urging Cornell to divest from companies that profit from the Israeli military occupation of Palestinian territories. Since that 2014 “vote”, 2,995 Palestinians have been murdered by Israeli authorities, the use of military detentions against minors has skyrocketed, nearly 30,000 ancient Olive Trees have been destroyed by settler sabotage, upwards of a thousand homes have been uprooted to make away for illegal settlements, and East Jerusalem has been stolen with the backing of the Trump regime. The systematic destruction of Palestine is to say nothing of the Israeli state’s embrace of fascism within its “proper borders” — the mass deportation of African migrants, the banning of human rights monitors, the police assassinations of Ethiopian Jews, and the shameless political alliances with the Bolsanaros and Le Pens of the world among other horrendous actions.
So in 2019, BDS measures will unravel differently at this Ivory Tower on stolen Cayuga land. BDS will be put “back on the table” in the form of a Student Assembly resolution authored by SJP and backed by 20+ organizations. We will publicly name endowment investments in war-profiteering Israeli entities, demand immediate action to secure their severance, and hold university leadership responsible for complicity in crimes of apartheid.
Check out the letter delivered to President Martha Pollack Monday morning. We are thankful for the Palestine support and solidarity present on Cornell’s campus.
There have been mixed results on U.S. campuses with these types of resolutions at student governments, but the resolutions uniformly are rejected by universities themselves. As previously documented, over 250 university presidents have condemned academic BDS as contrary to academic freedom.
Interestingly, the student governments at several of the largest universities in Germany have recently passed resolutions condemning BDS as anti-Semitic:
The University of Cologne’s student parliament passed a resolution against the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign targeting the Jewish state because BDS is an antisemitic movement that seeks to abolish Israel.
According to the resolution that was voted on in October 2018, the student bodies “are fighting the antisemitic BDS campaign against the Jewish state of Israel by all available means.” The students wrote BDS groups “should not be offered a platform at the University of Cologne. The student parliament and the AStA are working to prevent BDS propagating events at the University of Cologne.” …
The University of Cologne students are the latest college students in German-speaking countries to follow student groups in rejecting BDS as an antisemitic campaign. The University of Vienna in Austria, Goethe University in Frankfurt, Leipzig University and Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz all have rejected BDS since 2016.
Here’s what the student government at Leipzig University said in rejecting BDS:
The Student Council condemns anti-Semitic boycott campaigns such as the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions [BDS] and stands against the execution, participation in, and promotion of such campaigns and events at the University of Leipzig.
Therefore, the Student Council will not support BDS Campaign or settings (events, exhibitions, demonstrations etc.) in which BDS Movement is involved.
We consider international cooperation vital for the Academics. As a Student Council we stand against anti-Semitic measures such as disinviting of Israeli academicians from conferences in the context of the boycott campaign, and [council will] publicise whenever it happens — thereby contributing to the clarification of the matter and preventing such an occurrence.
The student government at Goethe University was even more blunt:
The Student Parliament condemns the anti-Semitic “Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS)” campaign and stands against any emergence of this or similar campaigns, be it in form of flyers, events or stands at the Goethe University, Frankfurt or any other place.
The Student Parliament further calls upon all its partners to refrain from cooperating [with the BDS campaign].
The call to boycott products from — described by the BDS campaign as “occupied territories” in parts of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Golan Heights — stands undoubtedly in the National Socialistic [Nazi] tradition of so-called Jewish Boycott and the slogan “don’t buy from the Jews!”. Apart from the demands for economic sanctions and divesting investments, the BDS puts massive pressure on world renowned artists in order to stop planned events in Israel and culturally boycott the State of Israel. Furthermore, the BDS calls for a scientific boycott with deep consequences, for example the ceasing of all forms of cooperation with the Israeli institutions. This is an attack on scientific freedom and would particularly lead to massive restrictions in the research and teaching of Shoah and National Socialism.
The continued demands by the BDS campaign to remove all security installations [meant to prevent] terrorist attacks along the border with Gaza and West Bank and to facilitate the return of all who have been denoted by UNRWA [the UN agency dealing with “Palestinian refugees”] as “Palestinian refugees”, would mean the end of Israel as the Jewish State and that of Jewish existence in the Near East. It is beyond imagination to conceive a Jewish population that is turned into a minority would be accepted and treated with parity, given the broad support for antisemitic terror against Jewish men and women within the Palestinian population in Gaza Strip and West Bank.
The antisemitism of the BDS movement is evident by the consistent labelling of Israel as an “Apartheid Regime”. It part of the attempt to demonise and highlight the supposed racist character of Zionism. In addition, this baseless accusation relativizes the (more or less) former institutional racism in South Africa and mocks the victims of actual apartheid….
How is it going to go this time at Cornell? We’ll see.
I have noticed increased agitation and aggressiveness, including by faculty who support BDS. False accusations of “Islamophobia” seem to be part of the new tactic to silence critics of BDS. There seems to be an anger born of frustration that Cornell and the U.S. continue to expand ties with Israel, which also is increasing its ties with the Arab world. BDS is a dead end, it holds no hope for Palestinians or anyone else, it’s just war by other means.
Hopefully the lesson of German universities rejecting BDS as the new version of the oldest hate will not be lost on the Cornell Student Assembly members.DONATE
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