Students at Columbia University in New York City will hold a referendum on Tuesday to decide if the university should “divest its stocks, funds and endowment from companies that profit from or engage in the State of Israel’s acts towards Palestinians,” the student group Columbia University Apartheid Divest (CUAD) wrote on its Facebook page.
As of now, Columbia students have no way of knowing in which companies the university invests its endowment, the university’s weekly student newspaper The Columbia Daily Spectator said, as such information is withheld from the public.
CUAD, a collaboration between Columbia Students for Justice in Palestine and Columbia/Barnard Jewish Voice for Peace, claims that working with Israeli companies or linked in any ways to Israel “fall under the United Nations International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid.”
"The anti-Israel movements brought a BDS proposal three times already and failed. Only now they managed to pass it to a student referendum. This shows that it’s not what the students want but what they forced the students into," Ofir Dayan, president of the Students Supporting Israel (SSI) chapter at Columbia University told The Jerusalem Post, adding that "the language of the referendum is biased against us. They used a convention of the UN that was never applied to Israel."
This issue has created tensions on the New York campus during the last few days.
An advertisement about BDS referendum and CUAD's disinvolvement pushing "vote no" was submitted a week before the vote by the school’s branch of SSI to the university newspaper, and was approved to be published at that time.
The SSI advertisement, which ran in the "Sunday Sports” newsletter of the newspaper on September 20, said "vote NO to hate! Vote NO to keep Jewish student safe on campus."
Just a few hours after the publication of the newsletter, the Daily Spectator published an apology signed by the publication’s editor-in-chief Karen Xia, managing editor Shubham Saharan, and vice-president Isabel Jauregui.
“The message, which referenced the Columbia University Apartheid Divest referendum, was clearly inappropriate and did not meet our standards for distribution,” they said.
“We deeply apologize for giving this advertisement space on our platform and are immediately reviewing our internal processes to ensure that publication of such material will never happen again. Neither The Columbia Spectator nor Spectator Publishing Company endorses Students Supporting Israel and Columbia or its products, services or views.”
Acting Consul General of Israel in NY, Israel Nitzan stated: ”BDS is antisemitic in nature, due to its singling out of the Jewish State and creating an atmosphere of intimidation against Jewish students on campus.
We have expressed our concerns to all relevant parties at Columbia University and we call on everyone to reject and condemn this act of bigotry.
Only last week, Israel, the UAE, and Bahrain signed a peace agreement. Those who promote BDS cannot be more detached from the authentic voices of peace and reconciliation coming from the Middle East, and we recommend them to utilize their time and energy for promoting dialogue on the campus instead of hatred."
The Columbia University branch of SSI reacted to this turnabout by saying that "Spec took issue with SSI's specific advertisement and implicitly sent a political message by negating our organization as a unit."
“The school year just started, and we already see an attempt to attack the Jewish state,” SSI founder and president Ilan Sinelnikov told JNS.
“The anti-Zionist forces don’t take a break – and neither do our students fully ready and equipped to fight back.”