The anti-Israel movement has made academia its breeding ground, and new initiatives to boycott Israeli academics and research are frequently introduced to student and professorial bodies.
But the BDS movement was dealt a crippling blow on Wednesday, after one college turned the tables - introducing the first anti-BDS resolution at an American university.
The student government at Western Washington University (Associated Students WWU) voted unanimously Wednesday that it will not consider boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) based on national origin, according to Israel advocacy organization StandWithUs.
The 7-0 vote represents the first time ever that a North American university’s student government took pro-active legislative steps to protect students from discriminatory BDS campaigns, such as the ones that have targeted Israel at a number of campuses in recent years.
According to the resolution, the ASWWU will not support BDS campaigns because, “tensions between students related to foreign conflicts should be managed in a healthy and collaborative manner rather than be exacerbated.”
It also expressed concern that BDS campaigns, “can cause students to be targeted on the basis of nationality” and lead to “disrespectful bias, hostility, hate, or harassment.”
WWU Student Alysa Kipersztok, a StandWithUs Emerson Fellow, brought the anti-BDS resolution to the ASWWU.
“I’ve seen how divisive anti-Israel BDS campaigns have been on campuses across the country," she stated. "Western is a warm, respectful, inclusive community. Our mission statement states that WWU ‘brings together individuals of diverse backgrounds and perspectives in an inclusive, student-centered university."
Kipersztok also dismissed BDS's claims that the boycotts against Israel help promote peace.
"BDS has been a source of disconnect and resentment among students, creating a hostile environment," she said. "It divides students, marginalizing those who support Israel. I want to thank our ASWWU for unconditionally supporting this process and for working closely with me to represent the desires of students to keep our campus safe.”
StandWithUs’ Northwest Regional Director Rob Jacobs welcomed the move.
“We salute the ASWWU for taking a strong, moral, and proactive stance against the targeting of students based on their identity," Jacobs stated. "We’ve seen how anti-Israel divestment initiatives spread hatred and misinformation about Israel. BDS undermines education, mutual respect, and understanding on campuses, and does nothing to promote peace, justice, or human rights in the Middle East.”
This is the second time this month that an academic group has rejected BDS. Last week, the Modern Language Association (MLA) - which boasts nearly 30,000 members and sets the definitive standards for college-level academic writing in English-language institutions worldwide - rejected an anti-Israel initiative in a landmark vote.