NYU Student Government Passes Israeli-authored BDS Resolution

Resolution calls on university to divest from companies that 'play an active role in funding and perpetuating Israel’s illegal occupation and its violation of human rights' ■ Israeli student says this 'will help my family in Israel, along with Palestinians'

FILE PHOTO: Students protest against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's visit to New York, 2017
Taly Krupkin

NEW YORK - The Student Government Assembly at New York University  passed a resolution Thursday supporting a divestment of businesses that sell to the Israeli army.

More than 60 organizations and 30 faculty members supported the resolution, which was co-authored by an Israeli-American student.

The resolution calls on the university to divest from companies that “play an active role in funding and perpetuating Israel’s illegal occupation and its violation of human rights, making NYU complicit in these crimes.”

The resolution listed coroporations such as Caterpillar Inc., Lockheed Martin, and General Electric as companies that sell bulldozers, helicopters, and engine generators to the Israeli army.

Rose Asaf, left, along with Leen Dweik and Bayan Abubakr
Rose Asaf

Following a debate that lasted into the night, 35 students voted for the resolution, 14 voted against, and 14 abstained. Israeli and Jewish students and others who oppose the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement protested outside the meeting.

“The resolution will help my family in Israel, along with Palestinians” said Rose Asaf, who co-authored the resolution along with two students affiliated with Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), Leen Dweik and Bayan Abubakr.

The students also listed two faculties at NYU that use General Electric engines or list Lockheed Martin as a corporate partner. The resolution points out as precedent that in 1985 the New York University Student Senators Council unanimously voted for the university to divest from all South African businesses during the Apartheid era. 

Following the vote, Asaf told Haaretz that as an Israeli and a Jew, she felt it was important for her to initiate the first BDS resolution of its kind at NYU.

“I approached it as an Israeli Jew”’ she said. “When Israeli Jews speak up about these issues, people listen. I need to use my voice to uplift Palestinian voices”.

The SGA will submit the resolution to be heard by the University Senate, which consists of students, faculty, deans, and staff. If the resolution passes University Senate, it will be sent to the Board of Trustees for consideration.

The resolution was supported by various student organizations, such as the Black Students Union (BSU), NYU Against Fascism, NYU College Libertarians, Bioethics @ NYU, and the NYU Slam! Poetry Club.

Asaf, a student of Comparative Politics and American Studies, said it was a conscious decision to focus on divestment, and not on academic boycott.

“NYU students need to use our power. We specifically didn’t focus on that, sometimes an issue like that can be a little more polarizing in an academic setting,” Asaf said.

“When it’s something like divestment for human rights violations, it's something a lot of people can get behind, as we saw today." Asaf added that the resolution was inspired by student councils at George Washington University, University of Michigan, and Barnard College, who passed similar resolutions this year.

“It really comes down to the fact that my tuition money, that I pay to NYU, is being used in violation of international law. When other students realize that, they are going to be just as angry, and take similar actions.”

Asaf said her family supports her, but that "it doesn’t mean they always support my politics.”

Asaf's Father was born and raised in Kibbutz Degania Bet, her mother made Aliya in the 1980s, and Rose herself was born in the States. “They tell me they are with me, as their daughter every step of the way. At the end of the day, I’m very lucky to have such caring parents, because I know lots of Jewish people who take this stance on BDS are sometimes ostracized from their family."

Still, Asaf says she is not conflicted about BDS. “In my mind, I know that this is a movement that will bring justice for my family, and for Palestinians, and I really believe it.”

Asaf does admit that her family worries about possible repercussions of her political activism, following the case of American student Lara Alqasem, who was detained for two weeks at Ben-Gurion Airport this summer over her past affiliations with the movement.

“I’m very fortunate that right now, the BDS ban only applies to foreign nationals,” says Asaf. “Since I have an Israeli passport, I, unlike others, am not banned from seeing my family. You know, Lara Alqasem and I are so different in our privilege, because she is Palestinian and I’m Israeli."