The student government at the University of Maryland, College Park is set to vote on a resolution next week to recommend that the school divest from Israel.
A petition has been circulating against the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions resolution, which is expected to be voted on in the Student Government Association on Nov. 15.
According to the petition, written collaboratively by leaders of various student organizations, the BDS bill, which is titled "A Resolution to Promote Human Rights by Divesting from Companies that Profit from Investments in Palestine," calls on the university to divest from companies which are associated with Israel.
“This bill comes at a time when we see an escalation in hate bias incidents on our campus. BDS campaigns create a hostile campus atmosphere that singles out Jewish and pro-Israel students and subjects them to intimidation, bullying, and abuse,” the petition states. “We know that BDS fosters an environment on campus that can lead to anti-Semitism.”
It adds, “This bill de-legitimizes and promotes misinformation about Israel. This is in line with the broader BDS movement, which singles out the Jewish state — the only liberal democracy in a region beset by some of the world's worst human rights abusers. The BDS movement is hateful, divisive, and ultimately diminishes the chance of peace between Israelis and Palestinians.”
At the time of publication, the petition against this BDS bill had already garnered more than 700 signatures by current students.
UMD President Wallace Loh came out against BDS in 2013, but not everyone at the university has followed suit.
“I think they’re trying to pass the resolution because they think there is a chance it will be recognized by the administration,” UMD senior Judah Eisenman told the Washington Examiner.
“The Pro-Israel community is thankful to President Loh and the UMD administration for being a staunch supporter of Israel and for his continuous opposition against BDS,” a leader for an Israel advocacy group on campus, who requested not to be named due to fear of retaliation, told the Washington Examiner. “Fortunately, there is almost no chance of it being embraced by the administration even if it passes SGA, but it is still very important to educate the campus community, specifically student leaders and SGA Legislators about how this BDS bill is harmful for the University and our campus community.”
“I am expecting both sides to be able to have a mature and constructive dialogue,” the campus leader added. “There should never be a point in the night where ad hominem attacks are being said by either side, and it will not be tolerated.”
“I think it’s disgusting but not unexpected with today’s political climate. I’d be astonished if it actually passed, with UMD’s Jewish population,” UMD alumnus David Kravitz told the Washington Examiner. “If it does despite that, I’d consider it a serious sign of a strong rise in antisemitism.”
UMD SGA communications director Nisha Desai said that despite President Loh’s opposition to BDS, the SGA is “an organization of about 75 people, everyone has a different opinion.”
“President Loh is one of many players at the university,” she added. “So his speaking out against it, we don’t work for President Loh or an arm of his own administration. We’re not formally endorsing it or not formally endorsing it until after next Wednesday.”
Desai criticized those who want to squash debate on the issue before it’s even been debated. “I think trying to suppress this is really not respecting the process,” she said. “It’s something students across the country want to talk about.”
Nine UMD faculty members have publicly stated their opposition to the measure. In a piece for the student newspaper, The Diamondback, the professors explain seven reasons why they are against the resolution.
One reason is that the bill is “to eliminate the state of Israel” and therefore “the Student Government Association should not support resolutions that are part of an effort to undermine a democracy and a close ally of the U.S." Another reason is that the “resolution oozes double standards.”
“The willingness to make false assertions about Israel coincides with a stunning silence about the merciless deaths of more than 400,000 Syrians at the hands of the Bashar al-Assad regime, on the northern border of Israel itself, over the past five years, along with the creation of millions of refugees fleeing that murderous government,” it reads.
This vote comes amid an ongoing anti-Israel sentiment on campus. Last September, a professor was dismissed over what she claims was religious discrimination due to her outspoken opposition to the anti-Israel movements on campus.
UMD Students for Justice in Palestine did not respond to the Washington Examiner's request for comment.
Jackson Richman (@JacksonRichman) is a political science graduate of George Washington University.