This week has brought about immense polarization in discussion of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Two resolutions have been put before the Minnesota Student Association (MSA).
One set of student groups and faculty, led by Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), seeks to divest University of Minnesota funding from certain companies doing business with Israel.
Another proposal, put forward by a set of student groups and faculty, seeks to condemn anti-Semitism on campus by adopting a stringent definition of anti-Semitism set down by the United States Department of State.
Both resolutions seriously concern J Street U Minnesota.
The divestment resolution does not promote the rights of Palestinians, nor does it promote a full and vibrant campus conversation about these issues.
Although the resolution states that it seeks financial neutrality from the University and that it does not aim to condemn a country, the resolution ultimately seeks financial action against the Israel.
In our view, support for such a campaign would only strengthen extremists on both sides and help perpetuate conflict rather than help promote peace. It is counterproductive and contrary to the ideals of the University.
The anti-Semitism resolution seeks to adopt and expand upon the U.S. Department of State’s definition of anti-Semitism for our campus. The resolution defines anti-Semitism as actions that “demonize,” “delegitimize” or apply a “double-standard” to Israel.
While we do not object to the State Department’s definition, we have serious reservations about its application on a college campus, where experts have cautioned us that it could too easily be used to limit legitimate free speech or conversation about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The University should unrelentingly combat anti-Semitism, which, like all forms of hatred, must never go unchallenged. But to treat even harsh criticism of Israel as anti-Semitism only makes it harder to identify and fight real instances of anti-Semitism when they occur.
Limiting the discussion and excluding differing opinions and perspectives, as these resolutions do, is not the right way forward for MSA or the University.
Co-Chair, J Street U Minnesota
Member, J Street U Minnesota