Hillel responds to new BDS campaign at Loyola

The following statement was issued by Rabbi Seth Winberg, executive director of Metro Chicago Hillel, and Nicole Constantine, Loyola student and JUF’s Israel Education Center intern.

On Sunday, March 8, students at Loyola University announced a new BDS campaign, demanding the university divest from companies that do business with Israel. Since last year’s similar campaign, tensions have run high at Loyola.

BDS is on the agenda of Loyola’s student government because the student government includes a number of BDS activists. This same student government spent thousands of dollars to support the legal defense of Rasmea Odeh, a terrorist convicted in the US and Israel who was responsible for the murder of two Israeli college students in 1969.

BDS supporters are today’s radicals; the students most likely to run and vote in student government elections. They use student government to gain a voice, but their BDS agenda still lacks institutional support. The president of Loyola University, Father Michael Garanzini, has made it clear that “[Loyola] would not be interested in taking up this issue” because the BDS movement “is one-sided, it is focused on one party in a complex multinational situation.” We are confident that regardless of how the student government votes, Loyola is not going to divest from Israel. Loyola further stands out as one of the only universities in the country to put the pro-BDS group Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) on probation (after they disrupted a Hillel event).

We are vigorously fighting this campaign through education and dialogue on campus. We also believe that “winning” and “beating” a BDS campaign is about much more than student government votes. We win when we strengthen students’ connections to Israel and their Jewish identities. This is where Hillel excels. We are registering students to go on Birthright, to study, and to intern in Israel. Starting next fall we will be taking a special group of Chicago student leaders — Jews and non-Jews — to visit Israel.

The BDS proposal was announced hours before Loyola Hillel’s first “Jewish Awareness Week.” Loyola Jewish students, who are few in number, decided not to let BDS derail their week of rich educational and cultural events. We are proud of their leadership.

BDS campaigns are increasing and frequent; if it doesn’t pass this year, it’s likely to rear its head next year. This is why we are committed to increasing programming that inspires students and makes them feel proud to be Jewish and committed to Israel. 

Posted: 3/13/2015 10:51:52 AM

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