Anti-Israel activity on university and college campuses in Illinois has remained steady over the last two years with student-groups actively working to promote Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaigns against Israel and false allegations such as that Israel is an apartheid state.
Since September 2013, more than 70 anti-Israel events have taken place on university and college campuses in Illinois and over 50% of those events were held on three campuses: Loyola University-Chicago, DePaul University, and Northwestern University. So far this year, there have been two divestment resolutions passed by student governments at Loyola University and Northwestern University and 25 anti-Israel events have either taken place or been scheduled on Illinois campuses.
Leading up to the BDS vote at Loyola University, there was a week-long program called “Loyola Divestment Week,” which featured several events promoting BDS and the “Loyola Divest” campaign. Examples of those events included discussions about divestment, a “Palestine 101” session which provided historical context about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and a conversation titled “Reclaiming Our Voices through Social Activism.”
ADL described the Loyola Divest effort as “misguided” and stated that it will likely serve to “divide and polarize the campus community.”
The polarizing effect of the resolution could be witnessed during the voting session and after its passage, as students reacted on Twitter with the hashtag “#LoyolaDivest.” One student remarked during the vote that there were a “handful of privileged white people on one side of room” and that the “rest of humanity [was] on [the] other.” Another student echoed that tweet and wrote “Never understood ‘white tears’ more than now –white jewish students are ‘uncomfortable’ while the Palestinians are suffocating,” and another student celebrated that the campus Hillel allegedly lost members “because #divestment made them uncomfortable and afraid,” stating that, “That’s a win for #LoyolaDivest no one should join Hillel.”
Northwestern University, the Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) chapter formed a group called “NU Divest” which worked to promote divestment. Leading up to the Student Government’s vote on their BDS resolution, the group sponsored several anti-Israel events such as a presentation from Hatem Bazian, a founder of American Muslims for Palestine (AMP), on Friday, February 13, 2015 titled “Colonialism is not Over: Contemporary Movements.” The group also published pro-BDS articles in the campus newspaper to inform their student-body about the BDS campaign and on Wednesday, February 18, 2015, the student government voted to pass their BDS resolution with a 24-22-3 vote.
The BDS campaign at DePaul University was also active this semester because of the campus-wide BDS referendum that was passed by a vote of 1,575-1,333 on May 23, 2014. To follow up on the vote, the DePaul Divest coalition submitted a request to the DePaul Fair Business Practices Committee (FBPC) in January 2015 and asked them to recommend that DePaul divest from Hewlett-Packard, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Veolia, and Caterpillar. The proposal was reportedly rejected by the FBPC.
The SJP chapters at both Loyola and DePaul also hosted events to defend and discuss the case of Rasmea Odeh, a Palestinian accused by Israel of having taken part in two 1969 bombings by the terrorist group the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), who was just convicted on a count of unlawful procurement of naturalization and is facing eighteen months in prison and deportation to Jordan. While Odeh’s case was only discussed at Loyola, at DePaul, the SJP chapter actually hosted a fundraiser for Odeh where all proceeds were to be donated to her legal defense team.
Of the more than 70 anti-Israel events on Illinois campuses since September 2013, SJP has sponsored the majority of those events, which were focused on BDS campaigns and castigating Israeli policy.
Other recent anti-Israel events on other campuses in Illinois include:
- Shirien D, an Executive Board member of the American Association for Palestinian Equal Rights, spoke about alleged similarities between Ferguson and Gaza at the Illinois Institute of Technology on February 11, 2015.
- A teach-in for students to learn about and get involved with the BDS movement took place at the University of Illinois-Urabana Champaign (UIUC) on Monday, November 10, 2014.
- Ilan Pappe, an Israeli anti-Zionist professor who is famous for writing a book titled The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, spoke at the University of Chicago on Friday, October 24, 2014.