Butler students win BDS victory amid attacks from pro-Israel critics

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A big victory at Butler University. The Student Government Association was recently pushed to vote on two Student Senate Resolutions designed to crack down on pro-Palestine activism. The resolutions condemned the BDS movement and embrace the controversial International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism, a definition that includes some criticisms of Israel. Last night they both failed to pass, with sponsors pulling their support for the measures after hearing Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and Jewish Voice for Peace members speak before the vote.

After the resolutions were shot down, SJP Butler emailed me this statement:

Measures which vilify the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, as well as those which equate anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism, must be resisted however and whenever they manifest. Such resistance combats the continued disenfranchisement and silencing of Palestinians. The vicious attempt to stifle Palestinian speech at Butler University is not an isolated event; rather, it is a well-coordinated and heavily-funded disinformation strategy. It is a strategy which denies Palestinian students agency, and prevents the diffusion of critical knowledge on Palestine in order to misrepresent Students for Justice in Palestine’s purpose and goals. Students for Justice in Palestine chapters challenge the racist, popular narrative surrounding Palestinians in academia, and are therefore invaluable resources both for the student bodies of the campuses they inhabit, and also for Palestinian students as vehicles of empowerment. Despite these deliberate attempts to censor the work of Students for Justice in Palestine at Butler University, we remain steadfast in our commitment to educating our campus on the Palestinian struggle for freedom, justice, and equality.

In short, resolutions that oppose BDS and equate anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism not only harm Palestinians, but also uphold systems which have historically been used as weapons to silence marginalized voices across the Global South. We must reject and actively oppose such measures, while also reaffirming our commitment to freedom, justice, and equality for all peoples through mass action and popular education, in our communities and throughout our campuses.

The resolution push coincided with a campaign (launched by pro-Israel students and right-wing personalities) to attack an early October event that was sponsored by the Student Government Association and organized by SJP Butler. Boycott and Safe Protesting 101 was set up to inform students about their right to protest and how to safely do it during the COVID crisis. One of the speakers on the webinar was Dalit Baum, director of economic activism at the American Friends Service Committee. Baum briefly discussed the BDS movement and pointed out that it wasn’t antisemitic.

These assertions were picked up by right-wing podcaster Eric Metheny, who posted a video on Twitter condemning the event and claiming that “your tax dollars are going to effectively indoctrinate students and guide them towards antisemitism.” This narrative was then embraced by Ryan Fournier, who is the founder and “co-chairman” of something called Students for Trump. He told his many followers that their
“hard-earned taxpayer dollars are going to a university that wants to indoctrinate students to hate Israel.”

Brooke Beloso, an associate professor and faculty advisor of SJP, told The Butler Collegian that she was “deeply concerned” about the backlash as it “places the lives and well-being of our students in jeopardy.” She also dismissed the ridiculous idea that BDS is somehow antisemitic. “This is a nonsensical notion,” she said. “Somehow, we are all mostly capable of differentiating between a nation-state and a religion in every other circumstance.”

Source: The news first appeared on Mondoweiss, along with the cover photo. 

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