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German University Students Denounce Israel Boycott as Anti-Semitic

The student body at one of Europe’s oldest universities denounced the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions campaign against Israel as anti-Semitic, Benjamin Weinthal of The Jerusalem Post reported on Saturday.

Leipzig University’s student council voted this month to pass a resolution that “[condemned] the anti-Semitic BDS campaign,” and opposed “anti-Semitic measures such as disinviting Israeli academics.” The campaign, according to the resolution, endangers academic freedom and recalls the Nazi-era slogan, “Don’t buy from Jews.” The resolution also acknowledged that the BDS campaign’s goal is the “abolition of the State of Israel.”

The resolution came about after Lori Allen, an anthropologist from the University of London, promoted BDS while speaking at Leipzig University in June. Her talk, which was partially sponsored by Leipzig, also had the support of Stanford University Press and Germany’s Federal Ministry for Education and Research.

It is unclear how much of the funding for the event came from the German government. Pro-BDS events have been supported by the cities of Bremen and Munich in the past.

The Young Socialists, the youth organization of Germany’s Social Democratic party, was one of the student groups that helped pass the resolution. Leipzig’s Liberal student group also supported passage of the resolution, which stated, “Israel’s right to exist and to self-defense is for us nonnegotiable.”

In an e-mail to the Post, Allen denied that she supports anti-Semitism. “People who defame BDS supporters in this way, by equating a nonviolent political movement with racism, are indulging in cheap propaganda tactics,” she said. Those who equate BDS with anti-Semitism, “are attempting to draw attention away from the human rights abuses that are inherent to Israel’s occupation and its treatment of Palestinian citizens of Israel,” she added.

Contrary to Allen’s assertion, BDS leaders have repeatedly affirmed that their campaign does not simply protest Israeli policies, but seeks to dismantle the state altogether. BDS co-founder Omar Barghouti, an opponent of the two-state solution, said in 2014 that Palestinians have a right to “resistance by any means, including armed resistance,” while leading activist As’ad Abu Khalil acknowledged in 2012 that “the real aim of BDS is to bring down the state of Israel.”

study published by the AMCHA Initiative in July found a strong correlation between anti-Zionist activism, especially the support of the BDS campaign, and the occurrence of anti-Semitic incidents on American college campuses. In its investigation of anti-Semitism on over 100 American universities, the report found anti-Semitic incidents were twice as likely to occur on campuses that have BDS activity, eight times as likely on campuses with at least one active anti-Zionist group such as Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), and six times as likely when the campus has one or more professors advocating for boycotts of Israel.

Jonathan Schanzer of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies testified before Congress in April that at least seven individuals employed by American Muslims for Palestine — a major supporter of SJP, which agitates in favor of the BDS campaign on U.S. campuses — previously worked for groups that fundraised for Hamas.

After hundreds of Columbia faculty members called on the university’s trustees to reject calls to divest from companies that do business with Israel in March, Michael Poliakoff, the vice president of policy for the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, wrote that BDS “has crossed too many lines of academic freedom and declared war on the free exchange of ideas and scholarship.”

Larry Summers, president emeritus of Harvard University, said (.pdf) in a speech on academic freedom and anti-Semitism last January that “the general failure of American academic leaders to aggressively take on the challenge posed by the Boycott, Divestment, Sanction (BDS) movement represents a consequential abdication of moral responsibility.”

[Photo: Polybert49 / Flickr ]