University of Minnesota students have narrowly approved a divestment referendum targeting Israel, which has been condemned for exacerbating divisions on campus, the school elections commission announced on Sunday.
The non-binding measure — proposed by Students for Justice in Palestine — passed by 217 votes, with 3,392 students in favor and 3,175 against.
It urged the Board of Regents to divest from companies including G4S, Raytheon, Elbit Systems, and Boeing, claiming they are “1) complicit in Israeli violations of Palestinian human rights, 2) maintaining and establishing private prisons and immigrant detention centers, or 3) violating Indigenous sovereignty.”
The campaign tied divestment from Israel to a number of demands, including the abolition of the UMN Police Department and an end to public surveillance.
Benjie Kaplan — executive director of UMN Hillel — said that Jewish students became aware that the referendum would appear on the ballot on March 2, and then quickly organized a social media and “get out the vote” campaign in opposition.
“Unfortunately, throughout the past week, we have seen the harmful effects that BDS can have on campus climate,” he wrote following the referendum’s passage. “Several students were repeatedly subjected to hateful comments and vitriol that have no place at the U or any university.”
Leeore Levinstein — president of Minnesota Hillel — similarly told the student-run Minnesota Daily newspaper last week that the referendum “has bred discrimination and silencing of the Jewish community.”
“The community I love has been attacked,” she added on social media on Wednesday. “My friends have been slandered. It is so disheartening that when a community comes out to ask for support, they are met with this type of hatred, especially on a college campus.”
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