We have covered multiple Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) resolutions brought by anti-Israel student groups at Cornell University, typically presenting themselves as a coalition of ‘students of color’ against white oppressor Israel, including 2014 and 2019. In each case, the resolution failed, though once it was by a single vote.
A typical tactic is to wait until the last possible minute to file the resolution, so that pro-Israel students don’t have time to organize. One even was brought over Passover 2014.
Tonight was a vote on another resolution brought at the last minute by a new group, the “Coalition for Mutual Liberation,” which has been pumping out anti-Israel vitriol at a furious pace since October 7. It appear the group is an amalgam of students already affiliated with other anti-Israel groups, such as Students for Justice in Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace. SJP’s brand has become so toxic, it seems this was more a rebranding than anything else.
Tonight’s resolution was brought forward only in the last couple of days and added to the agenda of the Student Assembly for tonight. The Resolution (No. 51) spewed a bunch of crap about Israel’s supposed genocide, even overstating what the International Court of Justice found.
Coming against the backdrop of protests on campus justifying the October 7 attack, a DEI official calling the attack an act of “resistance,” a prominent anti-Israel professor’s statement to a crowd how he felt “exhilarated” when he heard of the attack, anti-Israel graffiti spray painted on campus, a Cornell student’s threat to shoot up the kosher dining hall and slit Jewish students’ throats (he’s now in federal custody), and another student posting that “Zionists Must Die,” it was like throwing a match on a campus tinderbox.
During the open debate, it became clear that most of the student assembly members didn’t want to light that match. According to what they said, they stayed up late into the night coming up with an alternative resolution (No. 50) about divesting from military contractors without mentioning Israel or Gaza, and throwing the issue of Cornell’s investment guidelines for military contractors to an ad hoc committee.
The arguments during the open debate were nothing we haven’t heard a million times. One very interesting highlight is that the proponents of the resolution insisted it was not a BDS resolution, it was an investment guidelines resolution. No one believed that, but it reflects that the BDS label was toxic, and the students knew it.
But the deal was done on the compromise resolution, which passed 16-2 (I think, need to double check that). The debate opened on the anti-Israel resolution, which it became clear was doomed. The proponents tried to amend it to so water it down that it would not even have mentioned Israel or Gaza, but that amendment was rejected, so the full anti-Israel resolution went to a full assembly vote, and it was rejected 16 No, 4 Yes.
This was a pretty resounding defeat for BDS on campus, a reflection not so much of views of the underlying conflict, but a campus fatigue with the constant attacks on the Cornell Jewish community.
The biggest sigh of relief is being breathed by the Cornell administration, which doesn’t have yet another antisemitic public relations blow up to deal with.
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