The student government at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), passed a resolution on Sept. 23 calling for the school to divest from companies that conduct business with Israel.
The Illinois Student Government (ISG) passed the resolution by a vote of 22-11 with seven abstentions, Jewish News Syndicate (JNS) reported. The resolution specifically called on the university to divest from Caterpillar, Elbit Systems, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Raytheon Co., alleging that these companies provide “surveillance technology for the separation wall in the occupied West Bank” as well as “weapons guidance system and missiles used in attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure, resulting in thousands of civilian casualties in Lebanon, the West Bank, and Gaza.”
The divestment language was part of a resolution supporting the Black Lives Matter movement, the university said.
The university released a statement after the resolution passed, stating that it’s “unfortunate that a resolution before the group tonight was designed to force students who oppose efforts to divest from Israel to also vote against support for the Black Lives Matter movement.” The statement later added, “This resolution includes several points on which we can agree, but a foundational value of this institution is inclusion, and this resolution includes language that we cannot and will not support. As one of the country’s top public universities, we find ourselves in the difficult position of defending speech and expression, so we can talk together about difficult circumstances and have uncomfortable conversations. We must always balance that with our need to create a community where it is safe to live, learn and work.”
Illini Chabad Rabbi Dovid Tiechtel denounced the resolution’s passage in a statement.
“The Illinois Student Government (ISG) has once again used its power to exclude, bully, and intimidate Jewish students,” he said. “ISG’s behavior does not represent Illini’s values, but rather deepens division within the Illini community.
“The resolution was written purely to back Jewish students in a corner. Jewish students should never have to choose between standing up for social and racial justice while also having to shed their Jewish identity and their connection to the Jewish homeland to do so. Fighting for the rights of one marginalized community should not come at the expense of another marginalized group.”
The American Jewish Committee similarly tweeted, “We are disheartened to learn that @ILStudentGov passed a BDS resolution this evening. The BDS movement is rooted in antisemitism and only hurts the cause for peace. [UIUC]’s student body deserves better from their leaders.”
We are disheartened to learn that @ILStudentGov passed a BDS resolution this evening.
The BDS movement is rooted in antisemitism and only hurts the cause for peace. @Illinois_Alma's student body deserves better from their leaders.
— American Jewish Committee (@AJCGlobal) September 24, 2020
StandWithUs CEO and co-founder Roz Rothstein also said in a statement, “This vote was a shameful example of how anti-Israel activists exploit racial and social justice causes to promote hate. The truth is there is no contradiction between supporting justice and opposing anti-Israel and antisemitic agendas. We are proud of students who spoke out against this transparent and manipulative effort to spread hate through the UIUC student government.”
Back in February, the ISG had passed a similar divestment resolution that then-ISG President Connor Josellis vetoed.
“One of my primary obligations as student body president is to make sure that all students are able to participate in a campus environment where all feel safe to learn and be themselves,” he said at the time. “Approving a resolution that hundreds of students have said will do the opposite would not be doing my job.”