U.S. Women’s Col­lege with High Jewish At­ten­dance Votes for Is­rael Di­vest­ment

Trillions - - Con­tent -

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.

Photo by Takver, CC

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