May 20, 2019

University of Maryland Student Government to Hold BDS Vote During Passover

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

University of Maryland’s Student Government Association (SGA) will be holding a vote on a Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) resolution on April 24, in the middle of Passover.

As first reported by Algemeiner, Maryland Hillel capital campaign director Elan Burman informed Hillel community members about the upcoming vote in an April 17 email, stating, “The timing of this resolution is particularly insensitive given that many Jewish students will be away from campus this weekend for Passover, and will be celebrating the intermediary days of the holiday when the vote takes place.”

Divest UMD announced the upcoming vote in an April 18 Facebook post:

Leah Barteldes, the communications director for the university’s SGA, confirmed to the Journal in an email that the vote on the resolution will take place on April 24 and that “moving the bill to another date would not be possible as the current date it will be heard on is a result of our robust scheduling system we have in place and our permanent weekly meeting time.”

“We are doing our best to ensure as many perspectives on the bill are heard as possible,” Barteldes wrote. “Today, we opened up an online student concern form where any and all current undergraduate members can reach out to their respective legislators with their thoughts on the bill up until next Wednesday. While this is in no ways a perfect solution, we hope it will help us hear more perspectives for those who cannot attend on Wednesday.”

American Jewish Committee Director of Campus Affairs Zev Hurwitz said in a statement to the Journal, “BDS resolutions are incredibly divisive in general, and the timing of the University of Maryland vote further isolates the Jewish community on that campus.”

“Introducing an anti-Israel bill during a time when many Jewish students are off campus, celebrating a Jewish festival with their families, demonstrates a shocking disregard for Jewish student voices,” Hurwitz said. “Hopefully, the Student Government Association will recognize the inequity of the timing, not to mention the misguided content of a BDS resolution, and vote this divisive measure down.”

Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean and director of Global Social Action Agenda at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, similarly said in a statement to the Journal, “Since the anti-Semitic BDS campaigns always impact on Jewish students, government leaders should have scheduled their vote a week later.”

Rena Nasar, the Tri-State Campus Director and Managing Director of Campus Affairs at StandWithUs, said in a statement to the Journal, “Unfortunately, this vote over Passover is just the latest example of anti-Israel activists on campus introducing resolutions at a time when many Jewish students are away and unable to be part of this discussion. The legislation at UMD is part of a larger campaign of hate against Israel and anyone who supports it, so it is no surprise to see this type of insensitivity and ignorance.”

The resolution calls for the university to divest from companies that conduct business with Israel. Terps for Israel, a pro-Israel student group on the university’s campus, is circulating a petition calling for the defeat of the resolution.

“This legislation comes at a time when hateful rhetoric is directed toward minorities of many different identities on campus,” the petition states. “Among those targeted and vilified for their beliefs are Jewish students. In the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s most recent hate-crime statistics report, 58.1% of religiously motivated hate-crimes were cited as anti-Semitic. Crimes against Jews skyrocketed 37% in just one year, and since then, many more have been reported.”

The petition added that “BDS campaigns can create a hostile campus atmosphere that singles out Jewish and pro-Israel students, and subjects them to intimidation and bullying” and “de-legitimize Israel’s right to exist.”

“The broader BDS movement fails to distinguish Israel from Palestinian territories, which ultimately diminishes the chance of peace between Israelis and Palestinians,” the petition states. “#DivestUMD urges the University to divest from companies under the guise of supporting Palestinian human rights, but the legislation ignores the historical context of conflict in the region.”

The university did not respond to the Journal’s request for comment.