- New York University student senators approved by secret ballot a resolution Thursday in support of the college divesting from three companies associated with the Israeli government.
- Pro-Israel students claim the NYU student government does not represent their interests, further pointing out alleged harassment they have faced on campus.
- The administration stated its opposition to the resolution.
New York University student senators passed a resolution Thursday in support of the university divesting from three companies associated with the Israeli government and instituting a “socially responsible” investment policy. The administration, however, denounced the resolution.
Israeli-affiliated companies named in the resolution included Caterpillar, General Electric, and Lockheed Martin. Only NYU students were allowed to attend the senate meeting, each senator’s vote remained anonymous, and those who wished to address the room were limited to two minutes when speaking. The meeting, which was expected to last for about two hours, was ultimately extended until it spanned nearly three-and-a-half hours.
Adela Cojab, president of the pro-Israel student group Realize Israel, said that she did not feel there had been enough time for members of the NYU community to voice their opinions to members of the student government. Other senators and attendees also expressed this concern.
Large crowds of students gathered in and around the building where the Boycott, Divest, and Sanction (BDS) vote was held, according to Washington Square News. At one point, NYU Public Safety began turning students away from entering the meeting space, at which time the crowd began to sing the Hebrew song, “Od Avinu Chai.”
Students also chanted, “NYU, you can’t hide, we can see your racist side,” which could be heard inside the meeting.
Washington Square News live-tweeted from the inside, where reportedly, multiple students interrupted the presentation of the resolution, calling out various parliamentary procedures. When asked to remain quiet, one student yelled out, “We don’t have a voice.”
In total, 63 ballots were counted; 14 of which were abstentions. A majority of 33 votes was needed for the resolution to pass. In the end, 35 voted in favor of the resolution; 14 voted against it.
“The University opposes this proposal,” NYU spokesman John Beckman told The Algemeiner. “It is at odds with the Trustees’ well understood position that the endowment should not be used for making political statements.”
Beckman claimed that the university could not avoid doing business with individual companies and would instead need to “liquidate assets in a time of considerable market volatility.”
The resolution recently received a great deal of attention and sparked a controversial debate about the nature of acceptance for Jewish students at NYU and the democratic processes of the student government association.
“We are in the 70th year of Nakba, Israel’s ethnic cleansing which has resulted in the murder, expulsion, and displacement of more than a million Palestinians,” the Black Student Union at NYU said in a statement supporting the BDS resolution. “We would like to formally endorse the Palestinian civil society call for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS), as our struggle and the struggle of the Palestinians is inextricably linked in the battle against white supremacy.”
“We continue to see a linkage between the Palestinian oppression and the struggle for Black liberation,” the statement continued. “Israel’s pervasive use of detention and imprisonment centers evokes similarities to police violence and the carceral state in the U.S. that targets and criminalizes Black communities.”
The statement also includes a quote from Marc Lamont Hill, a Temple University media studies professor and former CNN contributor, who was fired from the network for calling for a “free Palestine from the river to the sea.” Hill’s quote reads, “from housing, to education, to family reunification, it is clear that any freedoms naturally endowed to all human beings are actively being stripped away from Palestinians through Israeli statecraft.”
The NYU Black Student Union also condemned the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) for their “militarized policing tactics” and drew comparisons between the IDF and the police officers who killed Laquan McDonald and Michael Brown.
The resolution also garnered support from Noura Erakat, a human rights attorney and assistant professor of legal studies at George Mason University, who gave a shout out to NYU’s Students for Justice in Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace chapters on Twitter.
Realize Israel released a video Dec. 4, titled, “Pro-Israel Students at NYU: Threatened, Attacked, and Underrepresented.” The video, which features Jewish and pro-Israel students at NYU, highlights instances of violence and harassment perpetrated by pro-Palestine students and student groups.
The video referred to the 2018 Israel Independence Day, when anti-Zionist groups burned an Israeli flag, took a microphone from a female student speaker (wounding her in the process), and chanted “free Palestine,” according to Washington Square News.
The video then pointed to a post, authored by NYU Jewish Voice for Peace in April, which followed the altercation. In the post, the Jewish Voice for Peace account states, “Looks like Realize Israel didn’t get the memo that pigs aren’t kosher.”
NYU senator at large, Rose Asaf, shared the corresponding screenshot from the video on her Twitter, writing that it was “the funniest thing NYU’s Jewish Voice for Peace has ever been called out for.” Asaf partially sponsored the BDS resolution in the NYU student government.
Another student featured in the video said that it was “important to note that there are no senators representing the Jewish community at large. We do not have a voice, let alone a vote.”
TorchPAC, an NYU student group that promotes the U.S./Israel alliance through education, engagement, and lobbying members of Congress, weighed in on the passage of the resolution.
“We have known since before the introduction of this resolution that unfortunately, this process is unfair and systematically silenced our community and our voices, which enabled the passage of this resolution,” the group wrote on Facebook. “At the meeting, falsehoods went unchecked, rules of order were not followed, and only seven members of our community were able to speak, for approximately two minutes each.”
Following the vote to pass the resolution, Roz Rothstein, who serves as co-founder and CEO of StandWithUs, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit pro-Israel education and advocacy organization, indicated in a press release that the organization “strongly condemns the passage of a hateful divestment resolution against Israel by the Student Government Assembly.”
“It is deeply disappointing that SGA passed a resolution that is so one-sided and discriminatory,” Ron Krudo, executive director of campus affairs at StandWithUs, said. “I’m proud of the students who worked so hard to stand up for themselves, in the face of a fundamentally undemocratic student government process.”
StandWithUs cites SGA’s “lack of transparency and representation of NYU students was a key factor in the vote.” The group went on to claim that “students reported that many senators are unelected and refused to meet and hear the concerns of their constituents. This lack of accountability enabled a campaign of hate to succeed in SGA.”
“StandWithUs applauds NYU Hillel, TorchPAC, and Realize Israel for standing up in the face of adversity, calling out bigotry, and demanding accountability from their student government. We are confident that the Jewish and pro-Israel community will overcome this challenge, and continue to thrive at NYU. We look forward to working with ICC, Hillel International, and all our partners to help students stand up to hate and ensure Israel’s story is heard on campus.”
The NYU student government’s passage of the BDS resolution came on the same day that the United Nations General Assembly rejected a resolution condemning the Hamas, the Palestinian group that controls Gaza and that often resorts to violence.