U.S. Women’s College with High Jewish Attendance Votes for Israel Divestment
In a surprise announcement, students at Barnard College, an elite women’s liberal arts college, voted in April to ask their school to dump investments in three major companies that do business with Israel.
The surprise is because the school is in New York City and has a high percentage of Jewish students. Of the total undergraduate population of about 2,500, Barnard has approximately 850 students who adhere to the Jewish faith, or 34%. An estimated 1,153 students took part in this vote.
The three companies the students would like dropped are Korean manufacturer Hyundai, Boeing and Israel’s national water carrier, Mekorot.
The vote, brought forth by the Jewish Voice for Peace and Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), was in support of the pro-palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. It was driving for a vote to boycott specific companies that “profit from or engage in the State of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.” according to the BDS movement’s website, “Mekorot steals water from Palestinian aquifers, supplies water to illegal settlements and sells Palestinians their own water, often at exorbitant prices.” The site also notes that the company has had multiple accusations leveled against it for violating international law.
Although the result of the vote is a major milestone for both BDS and the Barnard College students who took part, it is unlikely that the college will take any action. There are major pressures on the school and those who provide its endowment not to do exactly what the students have voted in favor of right now.
It is also a fact that no university has actually ever divested from Israel, again for similar reasons.
There is also the challenge that the state of New York, where Barnard College resides, has an anti-bds law on the books. That law, like others in many other states, makes it difficult for the college to formally boycott companies that support Israel because this would backfire either in legal penalties or in the state cutting off certain forms of support to the college. Those laws are a gross violation of the First Amendment right of free speech, but the momentum to pass even more of them in violation of the constitution and to pass a federal law as well is growing. (See “WARNING: Israel Is Killing Americans’ Right to Free Speech,” published on September 5, 2017, in Trillions.)
Despite all this, the vote is considered important. As SJP organizer Caroline Oliver stated in an interview about the vote, “If Barnard, the most select women’s college in the nation, divests, it will influence other schools.”
For his part, Albert Mishaan, the president of the proIsrael club Aryeh, viewed the result of the vote with concern. “These things do matter; they influence how people think on campus,” he said in another interview. “Those victories, however symbolic, become the next jumping-off point for further anti-israel campaigns.”
We encourage students to continue to apply pressure to schools that support Israel and to boycott the schools that don’t heed the demands of students. After all, you can get a great education from free online universities and no longer have to patronize the old university system to learn a marketable skill or get a good job in most fields.
A great place to start is Khan Academy.