Sep 29, 2010

#BDS: The Jews Behind BDS

The campus campaign to divest from Israel, its Jewish student supporters and where it's going

Students for Justice in Palestine had declared victory at Hampshire College.
It was Feb. 12, 2009, and the Hampshire Board of Trustees had just voted to divest from the State Street Fund, an investment firm with holdings in Israel and the West Bank. It was, SJP thought, the first time that any school in the country had divested from Israel. Soon afterwards, however, the board of trustees issued a statement claiming that the school had not divested because of the company’s connections to the Israeli occupation. In fact, the board stated, the decision “expressly did not pertain to a political movement or single out businesses active in a specific region or country.”
This did not matter to the SJP. The group—a national organization—called for a renewed push nationwide for what they call BDS, or boycott, divestment and sanctions targeting the Israeli occupation of the West Bank for alleged human rights violations.
This was not the first time that activists at the 1,500-student liberal arts college in western Massachusetts had advocated for such a boycott. Hampshire was the first school in the country, in 1977, to divest from Apartheid-era South Africa—sparking a national wave of similar resolutions. Notwithstanding the statement of the board of trustees, BDS supporters hoped for the same result this time.

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