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University of Illinois students pass resolution urging divestment from Israel

Nonbinding BDS move was bundled with vote in support of Black Lives Matter movement; Jewish student group slams ‘attempt to paint Israel and Jews as the obstacle to racial equity’

Illustrative: A protester holds up a skateboard with the Black Lives Matter initials in London, Wednesday, June 3, 2020, during a demonstration over the death of George Floyd, a black man who died after being restrained by police in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
Illustrative: A protester holds up a skateboard with the Black Lives Matter initials in London, Wednesday, June 3, 2020, during a demonstration over the death of George Floyd, a black man who died after being restrained by police in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

JTA — The University of Illinois student government included a call for divestment from companies that do business with Israel as part of a resolution in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

The university’s Office of Student Affairs condemned the nonbinding resolution, which passed last week in a 22-11 vote with seven abstentions.

“It is 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 Office of Student Affairs said in a statement signed by Chancellor Robert Jones and five vice chancellors.

“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,” the statement continued.

In February, the student government passed a resolution by a vote of 20-9 with seven abstentions that called on the university to divest from “companies that profit from human-rights violations in Palestine and other communities globally,” naming three companies in particular: Raytheon, Elbit Systems Ltd. and Northrup Grumman. But a week later the body’s president vetoed the resolution, saying its passage “made students feel unsafe and have fostered a climate of hate on this campus.”

The February vote was the fifth attempt in as many years to pass a BDS resolution against Israel.

“After five failed attempts in as many years to pass BDS, student activists enshrouded calls for divestment within a resolution opposing anti-Black violence,” the Illini Hillel at Cohen Center for Jewish Life said Thursday in a statement on Facebook. “This was an attempt to paint Israel and Jews as the obstacle to racial equity, amidst the holiest time in the Jewish calendar.

“The Jewish students refused to submit to this anti-Semitic litmus test. Instead they issued a joint statement of principles declaring their steadfast commitment to Zionism and racial justice. During the ISG meeting Senators made clear that they are driven by their Jewish values which call for social, racial and environmental justice.”

Jewish students read the statement into the record during the student government meeting.

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