Student members of Realize Israel expressed that they feel uncomfortable on NYU’s campus in a video posted Tuesday morning. The post also called on student government to vote no on a resolution that would have NYU divest from companies seen as violating Palestinian human rights.
The resolution will come to a vote on Thursday and has been viewed as part of the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, which Realize Israel sees as anti-Semitic and has created a petition against. Although the resolution and BDS may have similar goals — namely, divesting from companies associated with Israel — CAS senior and Senator-at-Large Rose Asaf has emphasized that it is not a full-on implementation of BDS at NYU. Instead, the resolution seeks to create a socially responsible investment policy like the one Yale University has had since 1972 or that Georgetown’s Board of Directors approved in 2017.
“It feels like we are having two different conversations because the resolution I wrote is a resolution that calls on NYU to divest from human rights resolutions,” Asaf said. “It’s bizarre to me that in their critiques they are saying this is going to attack people, this is going to marginalize people — it’s doing the opposite.”
President of Realize Israel and Gallatin senior Adela Cojab pointed out that, at least in its original conception, Asaf herself said the resolution was part of the BDS movement.
“This resolution is explicitly posed as part of the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement,” Asaf said in early October.
The resolution also cites the 50 clubs who endorsed the BDS movement in April in one of its footnotes.
The video by Realize Israel touches on more than the resolution, however, as Zionist students express that they have felt attacked by those who have spoken out against the pro-Israel viewpoint. With 143 likes and 12 relatively positive comments as of Tuesday evening, the post has been shared 184 times.
Jewish student and Tisch first-year Alexander Zinn said that he saw the video as sending a positive message, but had little faith that it would lead to any concrete change.
“The message was nice but I don’t think it’ll be that effective,” Zinn wrote in a message to WSN. “People don’t tend to change their opinions and attitudes easily.”
Cojab believes it is nonetheless representative of a message the Jewish community has wanted to send for some time.
“The video and resolution echo the points we’ve been repeatedly trying to make since last year’s Tel Aviv Resolution,” Cojab wrote in a message to WSN. “We cannot isolate this resolution from the actions taken against our community over the last year.”
One event mentioned in the video was the burning of an Israeli flag by pro-Palestine groups Jewish Voices for Peace and Students for Justice in Palestine at a rave hosted by Realize Israel and another Jewish group, NYU TorchPAC, to celebrate Israeli independence day.
Treasurer of NYU Realize Israel and CAS senior Gabe Hoffman said that he did not feel senators should vote yes on the resolution because he believes the companies involved are not responsible for how their product is used, divestment is ineffective and that it would not help Palestinians.
“If this is what they want to do to help the Palestinians, well, they have to do something a little bit better than just applying pressure,” Hoffman said, going on to suggest they fundraise to support Palestinians instead.
Asaf sees it differently.
“Palestinians have explicitly called for us, people of conscience across the world, to do divestment initiatives,” Asaf said. “And nobody, other than Palestinians, is in any place to critique that.”
Another major critique brought up by the video was that pro-Israel students do not have a representative on student government. Asaf is the only senator for Jewish students, and represents the “Marginalized Jewish Community,” although she said she has been open to discussing any concerns pro-Israel Jewish students have.
“Last year I was representing Jewish students at large and this year I’m representing a smaller section of the Jewish community,” Asaf said. “but I made it clear to them from the get-go that I am here to work with them on any initiatives.”
Hoffman said that he does not feel like the pro-Israel Jewish community has been heard.
“One of my lines, or one of my only lines, was talking about how we don’t have a voice,” Hoffman said. “We don’t have a voice, let alone a vote.”
Email Victor Porcelli at [email protected].