February 28, 2020

University of Illinois Student Government Passes BDS Resolution

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) student government passed a resolution on Feb. 13 calling for the university divest from “companies that profit from human rights violations in Palestine and other communities globally,” as well as firms that provide weapons and technology to United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

According to a press release from StandWithUs, the Illinois Student Government (ISG) passed the resolution with 20 votes in favor, nine against and seven abstaining after a six-hour debate.

Some Jewish groups voiced their displeasure at the outcome; the university later said it is rejecting the resolution.

“We, and the Pro Israel and Jewish community, are outraged at the student government for not listening to the Pro Israel and Jewish community once again,” Illini Public Affairs Committee (IlliniPAC) wrote in a Facebook post.

Illini Chabad Rabbi Dovid Tiechtel said in a statement that the divestment resolution passed “because the system was manipulated in the senate after ISG was stacked with anti-Israel students. We know this vote does not represent the values and beliefs of students and faculty at the University of Illinois. Illini Chabad is proud of the hundreds of Jewish students and their allies who came out to advocate for themselves to their representatives.”

Tiechtel wrote in an email to the Journal that the ISG had voted down divestment resolutions twice in prior years, but the current ISG “quickly made this resolution, were not straight [about] what it was, came in to the vote yesterday [and] already made [up] their minds.”

StandWithUs Associate Director of Campus Affairs Liora Bachrach similarly said in a statement, “This student government has no legitimacy to vote on issues affecting Jewish students, having previously passed a shameful resolution denying any link between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism. This anti-Israel legislation is simply another example of ISG’s inherent hostility and bias. I am so proud of the growing Jewish and pro-Israel community at UIUC for their resilience in the face of hate.”

Illinois State Rep. Bob Morgan, a Democrat and former president of the ISG, condemned the resolution.

“I am sickened and disappointed by this hijacking of the student body’s voice,” he said.

Morgan later added: “Under the guise of trying to promote Palestinian human rights, the BDS [boycott, divestment and sanctions] movement is instead exclusively focused on isolating and damaging the only Jewish nation in the world, turning a blind eye to the endless persecution and human right abuses elsewhere.”

The university said in a statement that it is rejecting the ISG’s call for divestment.

“We are committed to dialogue and to supporting students as they navigate challenging conversations about diversity and inclusion, and we will continue to plan programming designed to build understanding of different perspectives on complex and divisive issues,” the statement read.

A petition was subsequently circulated thanking UIUC Chancellor Robert Jones for the university statement rejecting the ISG vote.

“It is clear that ISG has no regard for Jewish students and has used this resolution — under the guise of human rights — to alienate our community and delegitimize the State of Israel,” the petition states. “The leadership of Chancellor Jones on this issue is essential to the well-being of Jewish students on UIUC’s campus.”