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Backlash Mounts Against Cornell BDS “Sneak Attack”

In a desperate attempt to introduce an anti-Israel divestment resolution in Cornell University’s Student Assembly, the Ivy League university’s Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) chapter added the agenda item at the last minute on Tuesday for a meeting later today, when many Jewish students will have already left the college for the Passover holiday. Prof. William Jacobson, a law professor at Cornell, who broke the original story on his blog, followed up with a report that if the divestment resolution is officially introduced today, Cornell SJP will push for a vote next week, in the middle of the Passover holiday (the resolution cannot be voted on in the same session in which it was introduced).

Pro-Israel activists in the Cornell University community have organized against this “sneak attack.”

A group called Support Israel at the Cornell SA has formed and has a Facebook page. In addition a petition has been put online opposing Cornell’s divestment resolution, with over 500 signatures already.

We, the undersigned, are members and friends of the Cornell University community who support peace, diversity, justice, and human rights, and strongly oppose the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (“BDS”) Movement.

We want to express our deep concern over Resolution 72 “Resolution Urging Cornell University to Divest from Companies Profiting from Israeli Occupation and Human Rights Violations” that is being discussed by the Student Assembly on Thursday, April 10, 2014. This resolution is inaccurate and intentionally inflammatory in title and:

1. Significantly hinders efforts to achieve a just and lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians,
2. Undermines academic freedom and Cornell’s continued interest in collaboration with Israeli academic institutions such as the Technion,
3. And delegitimizes and promotes misinformation about Israel.

Perhaps, most importantly, this resolution, and the greater BDS movement, singles out the Jewish State, whose human rights record compares favorably to other democracies, while turning the world’s attention away from great injustices and human rights violations, including genocide.

We, proponents of peace and Cornellians against BDS, urge members of the Cornell Student Assembly to oppose this resolution, which punishes both Israelis and Palestinians, reinforces dangerous stereotypes that limit mutual understanding and cooperation, and divides the Cornell campus community.

Writing at Commentary, Jonathan Marks explained why the BDS movement has adopted tactics that depend on surprise and limiting debate:

Perhaps most of all, proponents of divestment worry about what happens when the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict has a chance to be heard, as it did during the Michigan debate, courtesy of historian Victor Lieberman. At that debate, the BDS line, according to which Israel has always been the aggressor, was exposed as propaganda, and student representatives, who may already have been thinking that student governments ought not to make Mideast policy, voted 25-9 against the resolution.

Last month a similar resolution passed at Loyola University in Chicago after being introduced with no advanced warning and no debate. According to a report earlier this week, the Loyola resolution was not written by the students themselves but by a professional BDS activist, Dalit Baum, who is affiliated with the American Friends Service Committee.

Although it is not mentioned in the divestment resolution, Cornell has a joint program with the Technion, a highly regarded technical university located in Haifa.

Last year, Prof. Jacobson noted that Cornell SJP doesn’t subscribe to the boycott itself, as it created its website with Wix.com, an Israeli company.

In this month’s issue of The Tower Magazine, Molly Rosen, a student at the University of Michigan, described how a similar resolution, which ripped the campus community apart, was ultimately defeated.

[Photo: Cornell010 / WikiCommons ]