Jewish groups slam NYU graduate student union’s vote to join boycott movement

The resolution called on the graduate student union (GSOC) and its parent union, the United Auto Workers, to divest from Israeli companies.

New York University banner (photo credit: NYU PHOTO BUREAU)
New York University banner
(photo credit: NYU PHOTO BUREAU)
Following the decision of the graduate student union at New York University to approve a motion supporting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, Jewish groups have expressed concern over the growing strength of the initiative to delegitimize Israel.
The group voted at 66.5 percent in favor of joining the BDS movement “until Israel complies with international law and ends the military occupation, dismantles the wall, recognizes the rights of Palestinian citizens to full equality, and respects the right of return of Palestinian refugees and exiles,” according to a post on its website.
The resolution called on the graduate student union (GSOC) and its parent union, the United Auto Workers, to divest from Israeli companies.
It also calls on NYU to terminate its program at Tel Aviv University, which it alleges violates the NYU nondiscrimination policy.
In addition, 57.6 percent of voting members also personally pledged to adhere to the academic boycott of Israel, and refrain from participating in research and programs sponsored by Israeli universities.
The American Jewish Committee condemned the decision on Monday and called it a “grotesquely misguided action.”
“NYU’s graduate student union has now joined the BDS movement, which, let’s be clear, does not seek peace, but instead specifically targets Israel and questions its very right to exist,” director of AJC’s New York Region Michael Schmidt said. “The NYU graduate student union exists, we wished to believe, to improve the working conditions for the university’s graduate students, and not to engage in unrelated, anti-Israel political propaganda.”
Schmidt added that AJC is “looking forward” to United Auto Worker International taking action to “correct this mistake by the NYU graduate student union.”
The New York regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, Evan R. Bernstein – which aims to combat anti-Semitism worldwide – told The Jerusalem Post this resolution “attempts to isolate, delegitimize, and weaken Israel’s standing in the global community.”
“As such, the union’s resolution is in complete opposition to the ideals of academic freedom,” Bernstein said.
A NYU spokesman speaking to local media has pointed out that the pro-BDS initiative contravenes the university’s longstanding policy opposing boycotts of Israeli academics and institutions.
In an official statement, NYU’s President Andrew Hamilton added that a boycott of Israeli academics and institutions is “antithetical to the free exchange of ideas.”
“NYU will not be closing its academic program in Tel Aviv, and divestment from Israeli-related investments is not under consideration,” he wrote.
“And to be clear: Whatever ‘pledges’ union members may or may not have taken does not free them from their responsibilities as employees of NYU, which rejects this boycott,” he added.
Shafeka Hashash, a member of the Graduate Student Union who advocated for the resolution, said that the move was “a stand for justice in Palestine.”
“This historic endorsement of BDS by GSOC at NYU occurs in the wake of growing momentum for the movement across university campuses and labor unions nationwide,” she added.
Another GSOC member, Maya Wind, said that the pro- BDS decision is a way for NYU graduate students to reclaim the union as “a political platform for social justice causes.”
“Through the recent mass mobilization for justice in Palestine, we have taken a stand on one of the defining political issues of our time,” she said. “The referendum success is indicative of the traction the movement is gaining across university campuses, and increasingly among graduate students.”