(March 22, 2019 / JNS) Students at Brown University voted overwhelmingly in favor of a referendum held between Tuesday and Thursday, calling on the school to separate itself from companies that conduct business with the State of Israel.
The tally was 69 percent in favor and 31 percent against.
Members of the pro-Israel community nationally and locally condemned the outcome.
“While this moment is a difficult one for many members of our campus community, I am proud of the ways our students acted in the face of this challenge,” Brown Hillel acting executive director Dan Ehrenkrantz told JNS. “Within our Hillel, students against divestment from Brown Students for Israel, Beta Rho Pi and J Street U Brown showed extraordinary resolve and rallied an impressive campaign to educate the student body against divesting from Israel and toward engaging in alternative productive causes.”
“We are proud of the students who stood up for their community and educated many of their peers, despite facing a referendum question that was heavily slanted in favor of the other side,” said Lauren Feibelman, interim executive director of campus affairs at StandWithUs. “This was not a legitimate measure of opinion at Brown, as the referendum language clearly pushed students to vote yes. Unfortunately, their voices will now be used to promote a campaign of hate against Israel.”
Brown student leader and SWU Emerson fellow Jesse Raviv said “as predicted, the Brown Divest vote polarized the student body, induced incidents of hate through online forums and created a hostile environment for pro-Israel students.”
She said “the passing of this vote further legitimized BDS, a movement that twists the truth and only shares one side of an incredibly nuanced conflict. Although I am disappointed with the passing of such a misleading, divisive, and hate-fueled referendum, I feel more motivated than ever to stand with Israel. As a proud member of Brown Students for Israel, I can assure you that we will continue our efforts to create a campus climate where peace is possible.”
“These BDS resolutions are just words, they take no action,” said AMCHA Initiative co-founder and director Tammi Rossman-Benjamin told JNS. “And those proposing them know that. Their intention is not what they say—to improve human rights for Palestinians or encourage peace. Their sole purpose is negative PR to eliminate the State of Israel, plain and simple.”
“What’s frightening to us is that when these resolutions are introduced on campus, an increase in anti-Semitic acts targeting Jewish students follow,” she added.
“The Brown situation is yet another painful wake-up call to the pro-Israel community. We commend the Jewish students on campus for taking action, but it’s clear new approaches have to be developed to boldly make Israel’s case throughout the year – to counter the sustained, aggressive campaigns of radical anti-Israel groups,” said CAMERA president and executive director Andrea Levin. “The message has to go back to focus on the Palestinian Authority’s refusal to accept a two-state solution and improve the lives of their people.”
Brown University has 1,000 Jewish undergraduates and 200 Jewish graduates, according to Hillel International. There is also a student Chabad center on campus.