After it was announced that there would be a proposal in student government to divest from Israel as part of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, pro-Israel groups on campus feel underrepresented and frustrated.
The proposal brought forth by Senator-at-Large and CAS Senior Rose Asaf, who is Jewish, would mandate NYU to divest from companies associated with Israel as a way of protesting the country’s aggression toward Palestine. However, student groups NYU TorchPAC and Realize Israel do not see it this way. The organizations, made up primarily of Jewish students, believe this proposal is not only unjust but ineffective in bringing about positive changes.
Treasurer of NYU Realize Israel and CAS senior Gabe Hoffman believes the BDS movement blames Israel, which has tried to negotiate peace in the past, and would not benefit Palestinians.
“BDS infantilizes Palestinians, removing any responsibility or agency from their end,” Hoffman said. “It hinders the prospects of a mutually agreed-upon peaceful solution and ultimately hurts the wrong people, namely, the near 50,000 Palestinians with jobs at risk if their firms are sanctioned.”
Asaf sees it differently, noting that major Palestinian trade unions approve of BDS.
“It is neo-colonial and paternalistic to tell Palestinian workers what is best for them when they are telling us what is best for themselves — and that is to support BDS,” Asaf said.
Treasurer of TorchPAC and CAS senior Joshua Reichek says he does not agree with all of the policies of the Israeli state, but does not think BDS is the solution, agreeing that it would hurt Palestinians rather than help them. Reichek also questions why activists specifically target Israel in their protests.
“I am skeptical of singling out the only Jewish state for divestment,” Reichek said in a message to WSN. “While I do not agree with all of the policies of the Israeli Government, I would imagine that most people would rightly view an attempt to boycott Americans or divest from all American institutions due to Trump’s policies as ignorant and bigoted.”
Asaf says the reason for boycotting specifically Israel is that Palestinians have called for people to do so.
“We take our cues from Palestinians, who should ultimately be leading this fight,” Asaf said.
Regardless of the viewpoints on the pros and cons of BDS, President of NYU Realize Israel and Gallatin senior Adela Cojab says what troubles her most is the lack of representation on student government. As a past student senator herself, Cojab claims that students discriminated against her when they found out she was involved with NYU Realize Israel.
“It’s very alarming that an entire demographic is excluded from representation on student government, and the resolution is being presented that affects that group directly,” Cojab said.
NYU has twenty-three school senators, who are elected by their schools’ student bodies. The Student Government Assembly also includes 14 senators-at-large, who are appointed by school senators from the previous year.
Cojab believes that the issue at the heart of this conflict is one of representation.
“We can argue the political points of BDS all we want we want, but if we take a step back and look at our student government, the way that it is functioning and the way that it excludes voices, we should realize that this is not a representative body of the university,” Cojab said.
A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Oct. 15 print edition. Email Victor Porcelli at [email protected]