Fifty NYU Groups Pledge Solidarity With Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions Movement


Mack DeGeurin, News Editor

A coalition of 50 NYU student groups came together on April 9 to announce their intent to boycott the state of Israel. Led by NYU Jewish Voice for Peace and NYU Students for Justice in Palestine, the coalition pledged their support for the global pro-Palestinian protest movement: Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions.

In addition to entering the BDS movement, the 50 groups said they are boycotting academic institutions and conferences supported by the Israeli state as well as the pro-Israel NYU clubs Realize Israel and TorchPAC. The groups are also calling on NYU to divest from companies and business linked to Israeli settlement projects on Palestinian land.

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Co-signatories come from a range of different groups including NYU Against Fascism, the Black and Brown Coalition at NYU, NYU College Libertarians, NYU Dream Team and NYU Muslim Students association.

“Israel is occupying and colonising Palestinian land, discriminating against Palestinian citizens of Israel and denying Palestinian refugees the right to return to their homes,” the website reads. “Inspired by the South African anti-apartheid movement, the BDS call urges action to pressure Israel to comply with international law.”

A JVP representative clarified the organization’s position in a statement to WSN.

“We support BDS not in spite of our Judaism, but because of it,” JVP wrote.“We are excited to have this opportunity to dismantle the claim that the BDS movement for human rights and against apartheid is anti-Semitic or presents a material threat to Jewish campus life, as we believe that this claim is extremely infantilizing and demeaning to Jewish students, who are more than capable of discerning between actual discrimination against Jews and what BDS is: organized opposition to Israel’s violations of international law in solidarity with the Palestinian people.”

CAS senior Jonah Inserra, who is Jewish, said he supports the decision.

“I’m very pro-boycott,” Inserra said over Facebook messenger. “I think the conflation between anti-Israel politics and anti-Semitism is an intentional and cynical effort by the pro-Israel lobby to make any criticism of Israel verboten. Israel is basically an apartheid state but has insulated itself from any responsibility by conflating anti-Semitism and criticism of Israel.”

Realize Israel spoke out against the coalition’s decision.

“We are deeply saddened by this joint statement,” Realize Israel president Adela Cojab told WSN. “All people should be entitled to express their beliefs and opinions on the basis of our constitutional rights. Boycotting will not lead to any constructive progress or dialogue between students or peoples. We are an open platform that fosters constructive dialogue and will never pursue a strategy of isolation towards any student organization at NYU. We look forward to continuing in our mission and supporting the community of members we represent.”

Last year, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order that prevented state agencies in New York from monetarily supporting BDS. Cuomo has called BDS a hateful and intolerant campaign. The governor wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post further  highlighting his opposition to Israeli boycott initiatives.

Most recently, three bills passed in the New York State Senate that among other provisions would bar any university receiving state aid to fund an entity or club that supports the boycotting of any specific country.

Palestine Legal and the Center for Constitutional Rights dissented from the State Senate’s decision in a joint statement to Inside Higher Education.

“These bills are blatantly unconstitutional attacks on First Amendment rights to protest and dissent,” the statement reads. “They resurrect widely condemned tactics used to undermine democracy: creating McCarthyite blacklists, punishing dissent, attacking academic freedom and cracking down on student organizing.”

Inserra weighed in on the bills, stating that American Jews are not oppressed.

“I think the New York state law is absurd,” Inserra said. “White Jews in this country are frankly not an oppressed group. Anti-Semitism is real and Jews do face violence potentially even mass violence and oppression, but that threat is not from the left, not from Palestinian rights groups or advocates but from the right, from the alt-right and Nazis that they are so ready to made bedfellows with.”

Still, other groups involved in the coalition reiterated their assertion that the BDS is a peaceful campaign.

“The BDS movement is a nonviolent means of resistance,” said the Asian Pacific American Coalition in an emailed press release. “I call upon my community to join us in the movement for Palestinian human rights by signing onto BDS.”