Columbia U. students to vote on BDS ballot initiative on Sunday

The initiative is being presented by Columbia University Apartheid Divest (CUAD).

Students at Columbia University hold a "die-in" demonstration (photo credit: ACF)
Students at Columbia University hold a "die-in" demonstration
(photo credit: ACF)
The Columbia College Student Council will vote Sunday on whether to allow a referendum in the upcoming elections cycle that would gauge student support for the BDS movement, according to a report published by the New York City university newspaper, the Columbia Spectator.
If the ballot initiative, being presented by Columbia University Apartheid Divest (CUAD), should pass resulting in a campus-wide referendum on BDS, that vote would be presented to the Advisory Committee on Socially Responsible Investing, which evaluates whether the majority of Columbia students favor divesting from Israel.
Sunday’s vote will be the third time that this referendum or a similar one has been presented to CCSC by CUAD.
The initiative asks the council to poll students on where they stand - “yes” or “no” - with regards to divesting from “companies that profit from or engage in the State of Israel’s inhumane acts against Palestinians,” the report explains.
CUAD’s referendum cites eight companies – including the defense company Elbit, Bank Hapoalim and Boeing, which supplies the IDF with F-15 Eagle fighter jets, as well as other planes and ammunition.
The BDS group alleges that these companies either provide supplies used by Israel to demolish Palestinian homes or sell weapons used by the IDF against Palestinians.
Ahead of Sunday’s vote, students for the initiative (members of Students for Justice in Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace) and against it (members of Students Supporting Israel, J Street and Hillel) spoke out.
“It creates a narrative that there are two stances on Israel, which are pro-BDS and anti BDS. And that there is no space for anything like J Street in the middle because we don’t align with either side,” J Street President Brit Zak, BC ’21, told the Spectator.
Similarly, the pro-Israel students complained it is undemocratic to repeatedly hold a vote on the same issue and not abide by its results.
Sunday’s vote comes one month to the day after the October 24 publication of a report by Alums for Campus Fairness that revealed “systemic antisemitism and an ingrained delegitimization of Israel” at Columbia University and its sister school, Barnard College. The 33-page report tracked more than 100 incidents that have contributed to a hostile climate at the schools.
“My generation of Jewish university students is expected to live in an environment where the demonization of the Jewish state, the Jewish people and Zionism are commonplace,” said Barnard sophomore Donna Shashoua in response to the report.
In April 2018, Barnard students passed a referendum asking the Student Government Association to write a letter to the administration asking them to divest from the same eight companies.
Ofir Dayan, a junior at Columbia, told The Jerusalem Post that the situation on campus is “not only getting worse, but is evolving.”
She told the Spectator in a separate interview that she feels the BDS debate is not appropriate for a student government setting and that it could cause marginalization of Jewish students.
“In order to make Jewish students feel comfortable, we need to make changes,” she told the Post.