After yet another anti-Israel “divestment” resolution was introduced by the student government of a major U.S. university, students opposing the anti-Israel forces jumped into action to throw a monkey wrench in the effor, leading to a heated debate forcing pro-Israel students to ask campus security for protection against the attacks.
The Undergraduate Student Government Assembly of the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) met on February 15 to vote on a recommendation that the school divest its $2.3 billion investment funds from a list of companies left-wing students claimed support Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories.
The divestment effort was part of the burgeoning Boycott, Divestment, and Sanction movement (BDS) making its way through America’s universities aimed at sanctioning Israel over the Palestinian question.
The original resolution called for the school to divest from such companies as G4S, Hewlett-Packard, Caterpillar, Lockheed Martin, Boeing, and Foxconn based on their connection to Israel. The measure was meant to emulate the resolutions UIC passed in the late 1980s to divest from apartheid-ridden South Africa, but instead of apartheid, this resolution aimed to attack Israel for its purported oppression of the Palestinians.
After the resolution was introduced earlier this month, a trio of students, Chloe Schofield, Amitai Loew, and Moshe Rubin, jumped into action to change the focus of the document by shifting the resolution from one solely targeting Israel to a general, more watered down measure targeting practically any nation supposedly perpetrating human rights violations.
Operating under the moniker Coalition for Peace, the anti-BDS students were able to insert sections into the resolution that condemn purported human rights violations by the U.S., Britain, China, Syria, and other nations in order to take the focus off Israel.
“Without a doubt, the original document was blatantly pointed at Israel. Myself and another student were able to get the original writers of the resolution to come to a meeting with USG members and a member of the administration where we discussed the Jewish and Pro-Israel communities’ concerns about the resolution, and heavily edited it to not single out Israel, make no mention of the BDS movement, and focus it on the core qualities I outlined above,” Amitai Loew told the Washington Free Beacon.
Chloe Schofield agreed, telling Breitbart News that their aim was to make the resolution more fair to the whole of UIC’s student body and not just an attack on Jewish students. The original resolution, Schofield said, “unfairly targeted Israel and would undoubtedly affect Jewish students in a significant way.”
Schofield said she noted to the student group that the resolution unfairly excluded the purported human rights violations of many other countries and was then asked to submit revisions to the document.
“What we ended up with after a lot of work,” Schofield told Breitbart News, “was a resolution that no longer singled out Israel, and by association Jewish students, and instead asked for the university to review its mutual funds and be more financially transparent. ”
Schofield also noted that putting the U.S. in the resolution was less an attack on America and more a means to ameliorate the original attack solely on Israel making the final document “fairer and more accessible to all UIC students.”
“Putting the U.S. in that resolution made it clear that this resolution could only be a symbolic gesture to ask the board of trustees to be more transparent in their investments, not a force to fuel anti-Semitic rhetoric,” she said.
Still, the meeting was fraught with heated rhetoric and at one point anti-Israel chants filled the room, causing the Jewish students to ask the university police department to make sure students were safe during and as they left the meeting. Schofield told the WFB:
No student should ever feel unsafe on their campus but through the passage of even this neutral resolution, it has happened at UIC. People can find ways to spin the facts to support messages of hate, but I will always be proud of the work that was done. And, done by students this legislature was intended to intimidate, but were instead the ones who created something positive out of it, even if the other groups don’t want to acknowledge that.
Despite that their resolution was materially altered from a direct attack specifically on Israel to one leveled out over many nations making the resolution relatively toothless, anti-Israel groups both inside and outside UIC cluelessly hailed the resolution as a victory.
Ahmad Albanna, USG senator and a Muslim organizer of UIC Divest 2016 said:
This vote comes after weeks of hard work by UIC students to raise awareness on campus. We held multiple workshops, actions, events, and tabled for days in the student center, gathering hundreds of signatures on a petition, in order to ensure that students were informed on the issue. We are ecstatic that USG did the right thing in voting unanimously to divest, withstanding pressure from opposition and outside lobbyist organizations.
A website calling itself the Arab Daily News hailed the resolution as one condemning the “Israeli occupation” of Palestine, despite the altered language of the resolution. The site Palestine In America also celebrated the decision as one aimed solely at the so-called occupation of Palestine.
Regardless, UIC Jewish groups are decrying the double standard the various groups were held to and demanded that school officials address the lack of transparency.
“Considering that Jewish students were held to very different standards than BDS activists, were subject to hostile questioning and were given no clear directives about how to participate in the process, they did a remarkable job,” Rabbi Seth Winberg, executive director of Metro Chicago Hillel, told JUFNews.com.
“The anti-Semitic nature of the global BDS movement has poisoned the atmosphere and distorted the debate about issues of concern to many students,” added Emily Briskman, executive director of JUF’s Israel Education Center. “Through their thoughtful, principled and tenacious work, the students at UIC are changing the nature of the debate.”
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