University of Minnesota President Rips BDS Referendum
University of Minnesota President Eric W. Kaler issued a statement on Mar. 12 tearing into a campus vote in favor of a Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) referendum.
Kaler began his statement by pointing out that while the university respects differing points of view on campus, he felt it was necessary to express why he opposes such a referendum.
“The BDS Movement, while not directly mentioned in this referendum, has called for a comprehensive academic, cultural, economic and consumer boycott of Israel,” Kaler said. “In general, our University should be extraordinarily wary about such boycotts, given our core values of academic freedom and our commitment to the free exchange of ideas, uncertainty about the impact of such efforts, and concerns that we may be unfairly singling out one government and the citizens of the country in question.”
Kaler added that BDS seems to conflate “opposition to the policies of the government of Israel and opposition to the existence of Israel.”
“We live in divisive times, both in our country and internationally,” Kaler said. “This referendum, while narrowly approved, exacerbates those divisions and thus may damage our ability to come together as a University community in common efforts as we hope for — and work for — peace and reconciliation in the Middle East. We won’t solve this problem alone, but surely we can be better than a place where unhelpful rhetoric is hurled from side to side.”
The referendum in question passed by a margin of 3.4% on Mar. 11; it stated that “students of the University of Minnesota demand the Board of Regents divest from companies that are 1) complicit in Israeli violations of Palestinian human rights, 2) maintaining and establishing private prisons and immigrant detention centers, or 3) violating Indigenous sovereignty.” The referendum will go to the Board of Regents for approval.
Minnesota Hillel Executive Director Benjie Kaplan claimed the referendum went on the ballot only a few days before the election, thus causing students to “be led to vote yes simply by the question’s framing.”
“Having now been through three different BDS attempts I have learned that those launching these attacks are not interested in debate, they use BDS as a way of spreading their narrative, and then they use the misinformation they spread to polarize the communities most invested in the conflict rather than seek out constructive dialogue and understanding,” Kaplan told TC Jewfolk.
The campus Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) simply stated that they are against “all forms of racism and oppression, including anti-Semitism,” even though SJP at large has reportedly committed various acts of anti-Semitic harassment.