A BDS demonstration (Shutterstock) (Shutterstock)


New report argues campus BDS movement empowered by ‘a network of legal and financial support.’

By Dion J. Pierre, The Algemeiner

A growing alignment of large philanthropic organizations with the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) campaign is fueling the movement’s growth on American college campuses, a new report released on Wednesday by the National Association of Scholars (NAS), a Manhattan based nonprofit promoting intellectual freedom and reform of American higher education, argues.

“Beyond campus student activism agitating for divestment measures for student governments, and behind the professional organizing that trains student activist organizations, lies a network of legal and financial support that empowers the campus BDS movement to function,” Dr. Ian Oxnevad, a NAS senior research fellow, writes in The Company They Keep: Organizational and Economic Dynamics of the BDS Movement.

“The BDS movement relies upon a deep financial system of progressively oriented businesses and nonprofit foundations devoted to a broad array of social justice causes.”

Jewish Voices for Peace (JVP), a left-wing anti-Israel organization which promotes the BDS movement, has received $480,000 from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, a philanthropic foundation whose endowment is valued at $1.27 billion, since 2017, the report said, and the Tides Research Fund, a sponsor of Black Lives Matter, has given the group $75,000 since 2019.

Between 2014 and 2015 alone, JVP brought in over half a million dollars in grants. Additionally, Palestine Legal, a lawfare group founded in 2012 to support campus BDS groups like Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), is the beneficiary of generous funding from Tides Foundation, a pioneer of activist investment that has given over $1.5 million to anti-Israel initiatives, according to figures included in the report.

Yet, despite the growth of the BDS movement on American campuses over the past decade, the report cites data showing that BDS resolutions proposed in student governments have a 66 percent failure.

“With large studies already indicating a limited campus effectiveness of BDS, the question remains regarding how such attempted resolutions take place,” the report says.

Such failures, however, have not undermined the ability of pro-BDS activists to wield an immense effect on campus culture. By linking the cause to other left-wing initiatives, it continued, they set the parameters of how students perceive Jewish students, Jewish life organizations, and programs like the Taglit-Birthright Israel program.

The 124 page report includes three case studies on Columbia University, Ohio State University, and University of California-Riverside, assessing the various successes and failures of pro-BDS activists, students and professors at American universities and college campuses. It also chronicles the history of the BDS movement, describing its place within the wider story of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and “a larger ecosystem of progressive political organizations,” as well as its alleged connection to Palestinian terrorism.

Tracing the rise of the BDS movement to a group of academics, the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI), in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) city of Ramallah during the Second Intifada, The Company They Keep argues that the group defines its mission as resisting “colonial oppression of the Palestinian people” in the tradition of anti-apartheid and anti-imperialist activism which helped broaden its appeal to progressives in academia.

It also alleges that PACBI is linked to Palestinian terrorist organizations through the Council of National and Islamic Forces in Palestine (PNIF), a member of the Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC) comprising Hamas, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), Popular Front-General Command (PFLP-GC), Palestinian Liberation Front, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ). Over the years, PACBI has influenced the BDS movement on college campuses, a campaign, the report says, that “largely fails at convincing colleges to divest institutional portfolios from companies deemed to be associated with Israel” even as it “is successful in fostering a politicized and hostile campus climate and influencing broader political discourse.”

Citing antisemitic incidents that targeted students like Rose Ritch, a Jewish University of Southern California (USC) student whom BDS activists forced to resign from student government, the report adds that “the ability of pro-BDS groups to attach anti-Israel activism to broader left-wing initiatives contributes not only to anti-Semitism but also a larger politicization of college campuses that threatens academic openness and the institutional neutrality of the university.”

NAS recommended five policy changes aimed at “countering” the BDS movement and preserving free speech on campus. They include sponsoring trips to Israel for non-Jewish students and amending anti-BDS laws to standardize collegiate courses on Israel and antisemitism, penalizing universities providing financial assistance to BDS groups, and divesting state pension funds from companies boycotting Israel. NAS also recommended founding Abrahamic Academic Centers on college campuses, which would educate students about Israel’s new partnerships with Arab countries and, it said, “reduce BDS proponents to one set of voices among many.”

“Saturation of anti-Israel, pro-BDS sentiment on college campuses is a long term danger to US support for Israel by its simple normalization of demonizing the Jewish state,” the report concluded. “Beyond the problem of anti-Semitism, the importance of academia to the BDS movement’s growth and viability demonstrates the steady erosion of its political neutrality that has taken place over the past two decades.”

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