TEL AVIV – Student leaders at Columbia University on Sunday rejected a motion in support of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel in a secret ballot.
The four-hour debate of the Columbia College Student Council (CCSC) resulted in a vote of 17-20 in favor. It received an automatic rejection since it needed a two-thirds majority to pass.
The motion, which would see the college divest from eight companies with ties to Israel, was advanced by anti-Israel students affiliated with Columbia Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and Columbia/Barnard Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP).
It was an emotional debate with about 150 students in attendance, most of whom had to watch from an adjacent room on live stream out of security concerns, a reporter for the Columbia Spectator said.
Many students shared personal anecdotes of encounters with anti-Semitism on campus.
“The time period during the Barnard SGA BDS vote [was] the most emotionally challenging [part] of my college career. Never before had I felt so unsafe in my own environment,” Sarah Senkfor said. “I did not feel safe walking around wearing my Jewish star like I had for the past 2.5 years.”
Pro-Israel campus groups Aryeh: Columbia Students Association for Israel and Students Supporting Israel (SSI) worked tirelessly to turn the referendum in Israel’s favor, Brian Cohen, executive director of Columbia/Barnard Hillel, said.
“While I am relieved that the vote will be the end of BDS on campus for now, damage has been done: these votes polarize campus, and contribute to a difficult environment for Jewish students,” Cohen told The Algemeiner. “I am proud of our students who spoke so eloquently and passionately about Israel, the danger BDS poses both to Israelis and Palestinians, and the negative ways it impacts the campus community.”
SSI President Ofir Dayan said, “Not only did SSI present, but we won, justice won.”