BDS impact on American college campuses is exaggerated, study finds

Report of pro-Israel group says there was an increase in activity by both Israel’s supporters and detractors on campuses nationwide during 2014-2015.

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August 25, 2015 19:59
3 minute read.
Des militants du BDS en action

Des militants du BDS en action. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Reports that the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement is “taking over” American college campuses are exaggerated, the Israel on Campus Coalition said in the annual report it issued on Monday.

That’s the good news.

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The bad news, however, is that “if the current trends on campuses nationwide persists, the result could be dangerously close to that reality.”

According to the report drawn up by the organization – an umbrella of pro-Israel groups active on campus – “While there was a significant increase in campus BDS campaigns this academic year, the rate at which BDS campaigns were defeated on campuses nationwide remained relatively static.”

However, the report concluded, “there is no doubt that Israel’s detractors are increasing their efforts on college campuses across the country. They are using new tactics and in some cases reaching broad swaths of the campus population, simplifying a complex Middle East reality and latching on to other progressive social causes.

They have also found success recruiting and supporting pro- BDS student government candidates who then introduce and pass anti-Israel legislation.”

Pro-Israel students, however, are fighting back, the report said, “forming coalitions to educate the broader campus community, and working to build support for Israel on campus.” They are also speaking out against divestment, opposing anti-Israel student government resolutions, defeating campus-wide divestment referendums, and blocking efforts to boycott Israeli products.

There was an increase in activity by both Israel’s supporters and detractors on campuses US-wide during the 2014-2015 academic year, according to the report.

During this period the ICC tracked 1,630 anti-Israel events at 181 colleges and universities across the US, and more than twice that number – 3,753 – of pro-Israel events at 213 schools. Much of the anti-Israel activity came in the wake of last year’s military conflict in the Gaza Strip.

The spearhead of the anti-Israel action, the Students for Justice in Palestine, established a presence on more than 40 more campuses, bringing the number of schools where it operates to 150. The farleft Jewish group, the Jewish Voice for Peace, established its first-ever chapters this year, opening them at 14 schools.

SJP and its allies “continue to deepen their involvement with social justice-oriented organizations on campus. This year saw efforts by anti-Israel groups to build coalitions with progressive campus organizations that deal with issues such as LGBT rights, fossil fuel divestment, private prison reform, racial discrimination, and immigration reform,” the report said.

The SJP strategy, according to the report, is to support these groups in their causes, and in turn receive the groups’ support.

“Anti-Israel campus activists have adopted a deliberate strategy for engaging these largely progressive organizations by forming personal relationships with influential activists,” the report said. “In addition to this crossover support, anti-Israel campus groups increasingly share members and leadership with these organizations.”

The activists adopted a new strategy this year of putting anti-Israel referendums up to vote before the entire school body, and not just the student governments, the report added. These referendums, however, failed in each of the six schools where they were held.

For the first time this year, BDS brought its campaign to the community college level as well.

While SJP opened new chapters on 40 campuses, however, some 100 new pro-Israel groups sprang up on campuses across the US.

According to ICC data, the number of campuses hosting pro-Israel activity increased from 167 last year to 213 schools during the 2014- 2015 school year.

The first student government resolution opposing BDS passed this academic year at Liberty University, a Christian university in Lynchberg, Virginia. In addition, resolutions in support of Israel passed at several colleges, including the University of Georgia, Texas A&M University and the University of Nevada, Reno.


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