Israel Divestment Growing Issue on Campus — But BDS Victories Are Few

Wait Till Next Year as California 'DivestApalooza' Falls Flat

Campus Battle: Members of UCLA’s student government listen to supporters and opponents of a divestment resolution targeting Israel
courtesy of stand with us
Campus Battle: Members of UCLA’s student government listen to supporters and opponents of a divestment resolution targeting Israel

By Talia Lavin

Published April 30, 2014.

(JTA) — On Twitter, pro-Palestinian activists dubbed it “DivestApalooza.”

Student governments at three Southern California public universities all voted on divestment resolutions targeting Israel in a single day.

The April 23 votes were part of a surge in student governments at American universities voting on divestment resolutions. In the past two years, at least 16 student governments have weighed divestment measures, including nine this spring, though a majority have rejected them.

“There’s been a significant increase in divestment votes,” said Max Samarov, a senior research assistant with the Israel advocacy group StandWithUs. “I think activists were using previous years to test the waters and are now rolling divestment out as a truly national strategy.”

The divestment measures proposed to student governments generally strongly criticize Israeli policies and urge universities to divest themselves of investments in companies doing business with the Israeli military or with West Bank settlements. Their significance is largely symbolic, since they are not binding on universities.

Last academic year, the bulk of the votes took place at California universities, most of them large public schools, several of which approved divestment. This spring, many of the votes have been on campuses in other states.

Pro-Palestinian groups see themselves as making headway on campus.

“There’s more and more campuses that are taking up this issue,” said Ramah Kudaimi, membership and outreach coordinator of the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation. “We’ve welcomed 10 to 15 new student groups in the past year.”

On campus after campus, student government meetings to discuss divestment resolutions have been heated affairs often stretching into the night. But with only a couple exceptions, student governments this academic year have rejected divestment measures, a worse showing than the previous year for pro-Palestinian activists.

“In terms of actually winning votes, it’s been an overwhelmingly unsuccessful year for divestment activists,” Samarov said. “They may consider it a success because they’ve managed to introduce more total resolutions at more total universities in this country, but at the same time, the anti-divestment movement on campuses has become more cohesive and more prepared to push back.”



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