Italian University Students Clash Over Israel Boycott

An Egyptian shouts anti-Israeli slogans in front of banners with the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) logo during the launch of the Egyptian campaign that urges boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel and Israeli-made goods, at the Egyptian Journalists’ Syndicate in Cairo, Egypt, Monday, April 20, 2015. BDS is a …
AP/Amr Nabil

A youth group of Italians in Israel has denounced the decision of the University of Turin’s student council to cut ties with Israel’s Technion Institute of Technology as a protest over Israel’s military rule over the Palestinians.

Last week the student council passed a motion urging the university president, Gianmaria Ajani, to “withdraw from the agreements currently in place with the Technion in Haifa” by mid-April, a move that has been condemned by an Italian student group in Israel called Giovane Kehila.

The student council came to its decision after granting a hearing to a member of a militant group called the “Palestine Project,” which in recent years has been instigating boycott initiatives as part of the so-called BDS movement (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) against Israel.

The lengthy text of the decision was approved with 16 votes in favor and 5 opposed, and asks that the University “to take a public stand against Israel’s violations of international law and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” among other demands. ” The Student Council also urges all students to join the boycott against Israel.

Citing Amnesty International, the text claims that the “State of Israel has deliberately targeted civilians and has thus been responsible for war crimes during the attack on Gaza conducted during the summer of 2014.”

“Project Palestine” issued a statement saying they were “satisfied” with the Council’s decision and that they “hope that this is a first step and that other university groups will follow this example.”

Nonetheless, a student group of Italians in Israel underscored the significance of a vote that did not obtain unanimity.

In their own statement, Giovane Kehila said they welcomed the news that “despite the climate of constant intimidation in Turin brought by groups like ‘Invicta Palestine’ and ‘Project Palestine,’” the motion brought forward to the Student Council “failed to garner the unanimous vote of the directors.”

Giovane Kehila attributed the divided vote to “the courage of five dissident voices who do not identify with an ideological campaign.” Promoters of that campaign, they said, “far from wishing to truly commit themselves to resolving in proactive terms the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by creating opportunities for dialogue and discussion between the parties, has as its sole objective to delegitimize, isolate and destroy Israeli democracy.”

“The real news,” Giovane Kehila asserted, was the failed attempt to gain unanimous consent for the “criminal objectives” of the movement promoted “by Palestinian terrorist Marwan Barghouti, a murderer sentenced to five life terms.”

“We, young Italian-Israelis, will continue to reach out and keep the doors open to all our young countrymen who without prejudices want to live the experience of a period of study and research in a complex and fascinating country like Israel.”

They also urged the president and the academic senate of the University of Turin “to reject the appeal for membership in the hate campaign against Israeli democracy and to join us, the young Italian-Israelis, to build bridges and break down walls.”

Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter