As CBS2’s Lisa Rozner reported, a national movement targeting bottom lines of companies tied to Israel is now pitting students against students at the women’s school affiliated with Columbia University.
The movement is called BDS, which stands for the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign against Israel.
For the last week, students had a chance to vote ‘yes’ or ‘no’ on a two-page referendum.
It highlights eight companies, including Caterpillar, Boeing and Hewlett Packard, and explains each one’s ties to the Israel defense forces. It then asks students to decide whether the college should divest its endowment, funds and stocks in those companies.
“Companies like Caterpillar, which make heavy machinery that here is used for general construction. In Palestine and the West Bank, they’re used for extrajudicial home demolitions,” said Caroline Oliver, of Students for Justice in Palestine.
“The way the referendum was presented on the SGA vote was basically saying, ‘here’s these companies that are doing horrible human rights violations,’ and not giving any nuanced opinions whatsoever,” student Rachel Meyer said.
Sixty-four percent voted to divest, 36 percent voted against it.
Jewish students make up one third of the school’s population. About half of the 2,500 student body participated.
“What it does do in the public sphere is delegitimize Israel, give Israel a bad reputation, and make it increasingly uncomfortable for pro-Israel supporters, including Jewish students on campus, to publicly identify with Israel,” said Dov Waxman, professor of political science at Northeastern University.
The Anti-Defamation League says it’s concerned about BDS and is now educating high school students and parents about it before they arrive on campus.
“We feel at the macro-level that BDS is something that inherently is written with antisemitism,” said Evan Bernstein, director of the New York ADL.
College officials would not go on camera but said in a statement, “We are aware of the Student Government Association’s referendum on divestment… but we have not received a formal request. As with any student referendum, which is a valuable expression of opinion, the outcome does not compel the College to take a specific action.”
The student government will vote Monday on whether they will send a letter to the administration, asking them to divest in those companies.
Last year, Barnard College became the first college in the country to divest from companies that deny climate change.