Harvard Grad Union Endorses Anti-Israel BDS Movement Amid Backlash From Jewish Alumni

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by Tyler Durden
Wednesday, Nov 15, 2023 - 03:05 AM

Authored by Bill Pan via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),

A tourist photographs a sign painted on a wall in the biblical town of Bethlehem on June 5, 2015, calling to boycott Israeli products coming from Jewish settlements. (Thomas Coex/AFP via Getty Images)

Harvard University's graduate student union has voted to endorse the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel, a move that risks further ire from the Ivy League school's Jewish affiliates who are threatening to withhold donations.

The roughly 600-member Harvard Graduate Student Union voted on Nov. 10 to support a BDS statement from some rank-and-file members of the United Auto Workers, the national union to which the Harvard group belongs, according to student newspaper The Harvard Crimson.

The BDS is a loose amalgam of organizations and individuals who call for economic pressure on Israel to change its Palestinian policies. While some merely see BDS activism as a way to express their solidarity with the Palestinians, others are convinced that it is a concrete strategy to isolate and delegitimize the state of Israel by inflicting real economic damage.

"As members of the labor movement, we call on U.S. labor unions to cut all ties with Israeli unions," the UAW rank-and-file statement reads.

About 64 percent of Harvard grad union members voted in favor of the statement, representing the largest turnout for a non-contract vote in the union's history, The Crimson reported.

Also approved at the Nov. 10 meeting was a separate statement calling for a ceasefire in Gaza. The statement, primarily signed by the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America, also calls for the release of Israeli civilians taken hostage by Hamas.

"The road to peace cannot be found through warfare," it reads. "We commit ourselves to work in solidarity with the Palestinian and Israeli peoples to achieve peace and justice."

The second statement passed with 69 percent of votes.

Shani Cohen, a former bargaining committee member who voted against the BDS endorsement but is in favor of the calling for a ceasefire, told The Crimson that she will resign from the union. She argued that the union's actions are not helping to fix the hostile climate against Jewish and pro-Israel students on campus.

"The union kind of failed its basic role in protecting members and being in solidarity with members that are Israeli or Jewish," she said.

'Polarizing Rhetoric'

The union's vote also comes as more than 1,600 Harvard alumni declared that they will close their checkbooks to the Cambridge, Massachusetts, school if it doesn't take urgent action to crack down on anti-Semitism.

"We never thought that, at Harvard College, we would have to argue the point that terrorism against civilians demands immediate and unequivocal condemnation," wrote members of the Harvard College Jewish Alumni Association (HCJAA) in an open letter to President Claudine Gay and Dean of Harvard College Rakesh Khurana. "We never thought we would have to argue for recognition of our own humanity."

"We are calling on the University to meet its commitment to protecting all its students, not just those that shout the loudest or blare the most polarizing rhetoric."

The HCJAA was formed last month in the aftermath of the university’s response to the Oct. 7 attacks. Organizers claim that this is the first Jewish alumni association in Harvard's history.

In an interview with CNN, Rebecca Claire Brooks, a co-founder of the HCJAA, said many of the signatories of the letter are key donors to the university.

"This is a broad and growing intergenerational movement of alumni from many different sectors and industries," she said. "Yes, some of them are very influential donors and some of them are sort of more normal-sized donors. But we're speaking in one unified voice in response to this moment."

Harvard, like every other Ivy League school, relies on donations and endowments for a significant proportion of its income. According to the university's financial report for fiscal year 2022, donations generated total revenue of $5.8 billion. Only 55 percent of the university's revenue was generated through education, research, and other means such as publications and royalties.

"As the University's single largest contributor to revenue, 45 percent of this year's income arose from philanthropy—9 percent from current use gifts, which have an immediate impact on operations, and 36 percent from the ongoing support of distributions from the endowment," the report stated.

Several high-profile donors have already announced that they were cutting ties with Harvard. Israeli billionaire Idan Ofer and his wife, Batia, quit an executive board at the university in protest over the university leadership's response to the Hamas attacks. Bill Ackman, founder of Pershing Square Capital Management; and Leslie Wexner, former chief executive Victoria's Secret, have also joined the donor exodus.