Anti-Israel activity on American college campuses was largely dominated by Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaigns in the latest academic year. Student groups that are well-known for their outspoken opposition to Israeli policy advocated for a variety of BDS-related initiatives in an effort to isolate and delegitimize Israel.
The most prevalent BDS initiative on campus involved the introduction and debate of divestment resolutions by the campus’s student government. Fifteen campuses experienced such resolutions in the 2013-14 academic year. In addition, two academic associations voted to boycott Israeli academic institutions and one school in South Florida circulated a petition to divest from Israel that reportedly received more than 10,000 signatures. Moreover, the vast majority of the approximately 400 explicitly anti-Israel events and programs that took place on college campuses this year focused on BDS as the best tactic available to dismantle the so-called “apartheid” state of Israel.
While weeklong programs like “Israeli Apartheid Week” and “Palestine Awareness Week” seem to have waned in popularity among anti-Israel students in recent years – as indicated by fewer schools participating and less general buzz around these programs – BDS initiatives are clearly on the upswing. A comparison from just one year earlier is startling. Eight college campuses considered BDS resolutions in the 2012-13 academic year as opposed to fifteen
, representing a nearly 100% increase in the tactic.
Although this data indicates a proliferation of BDS-related activity, it does not necessarily portend increased success for the BDS movement. Indeed, four of the resolutions passed in 2012-13 (50%) while only five passed this year (33%).
Perhaps more concerning, however, is the extent to which support for BDS has seeped into the realm of scholars. In 2013 resolutions calling for the boycott of Israeli academic institutions were passed by two academic associations, the American Studies Association and the Asian American Studies Association.
Below is an alphabetically organized list of the universities that considered divestment resolutions or referendums this year, including the results of these votes:
Members of the pro-Israel community can take comfort in the fact that BDS efforts continue When the ASA passed boycott its resolution, for example, more than 200 university presidents issued public statements denouncing the measures and distancing their universities from the results of these votes. More broadly, student-driven BDS resolutions cannot compel the university to alter its investments and are almost always summarily rejected by the university’s administration as inconsistent with the university’s policies
Despite the anti-Israel movement's increased efforts to advance BDS initiatives, members of the pro-Israel community can take comfort in the fact that BDS efforts continue to be roundly condemned and rejected by the American public and by university administrations.