In mid-April the NYU Graduate School Organizing Committee will vote in a referendum on whether to participate in Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against the state of Israel.
The BDS movement is an international movement working to end Israel’s military occupation of Palestine. Within the GSOC, the movement will work primarily to stop funding international and Israeli companies that violate Palestine’s human and civil rights, stop further communication with these companies in the future and encourage NYU to close their Tel Aviv campus.
NYU is the only private university whose graduate student union has considered joining BDS. David Klassen, a fourth year Ph.D. student at the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, is hopeful that NYU will set a precedent for others to follow.
“We’ll signal to other people that this is something that has momentum and we’ll see other universities other unions, other student groups take similar steps,” Klassen said.
Klassen is one of the chief organizers of the referendum and stands on the GSOC caucus for BDS.
“It is incumbent upon people, upon the world, to listen to people who are in situations of occupation and oppression and figure out what we can do to alleviate that situation and make sure that everyone’s human rights are respected,” Klassen said.
GSOC obtained signatures from 10 percent of its members to hold the referendum and the GSOC assembly of stewards has planned a series of town hall discussion events, the second of which will take place on Wednesday, March 30. All groups and organizers within GSOC will be able to voice their opinions at these town halls before the vote in April.
Communication steward of GSOC from the Academic Workers for a Democratic Union and Steinhardt student Anne Pasek said GSOC must allow the membership to democratically decide the will of our union, even if it means considering polarizing topics.
“As the Assembly of Stewards, our priority is to ensure that this vote is as democratic as possible with as much opportunity for dialog, because we know that this is one of the more challenging topics to discuss today,” Pasek said.
The pending referendum has sparked tension among the different organizers and groups within GSOC, angering some students by the committee’s mere consideration of joining the BDS movement. The opposition is equally as passionate to stop BDS from
Samuel Zerin, a Ph.D. student in musicology and an organizer for GSOC Open Dialogue on Israel and Palestine said he was strongly against the referendum, citing BDS’ demonization of Israel, and the organization’s suppression of dialogue.
“One of my many concerns about BDS is not simply that is demonizes Israel as an ‘apartheid’ and ‘colonial’ state, but that its activists use this rhetoric in such ambiguous and normalizing ways,” Zerin said.
A version of this article appeared in the March 28 print edition. Email Olivia Roos at [email protected]