A resolution to begin a process to divest from companies that invest or operate in Israel was defeated by the University of Michigan student government in the early hours of Wednesday morning.
The proceedings were broadcast via the internet, with more than 2,000 watching, in addition to the 350 students sitting in the capacity auditorium. After a six-hour session, which included speeches by dozens of students, for and against, two Jewish professors and the anti-Israel journalist and author Max Blumenthal, who used the forum to repeatedly pitch his new book, the Central Student Government voted down the resolution, 25 to nine, with five abstentions.
The vote was taken by secret ballot, as some members of the CSG had said they were intimidated by proponents of the resolution at its previous meeting, where a decision was taken to table a vote “indefinitely.”
The Washington Free Beacon reported on Monday that at least one pro-Israel student “received death threats and that others have allegedly been called ‘kikes’ and ‘dirty Jews’” by proponents of the resolution who called for a “sit-in” of the CSG’s offices until the resolution was put back on the agenda for Tuesday night.
Molly Rosen, a University of Michigan senior who was at last week’s meeting, told The Algemeiner on Tuesday that while the student speaker “did a great job” of keeping order at the meeting, many students “definitely were feeling intimidated because of how they voted on the issue.”
“I, personally, was not scared, but I know many students who are now not willing to express opinions in class for fear of retribution on campus or on social media,” Rosen said.
Indeed, the #UMDivest hashtag on Twitter contained many slurs against Israel and mainly offered support for the proponents of the mission. The livestream broadcast of Tuesday night’s proceedings also had a chat function where students cracked jokes and mainly ridiculed speakers against the resolution.
The wording of the resolution that was voted down was modeled on those enacted against South Africa during the apartheid era. It would have called for the university to create a committee whose job would be to write a plan to divest school assets from international companies whose operations were considered to be harming Israel’s Arab population, especially in land claimed for a future state by the Palestinian Authority. Caterpillar, because of steamshovels supposedly used in demolishing homes, or General Electric, because of the turbines apparently used in Israeli aircraft, were two examples cited in speaker presentations.
One point that came out from law students who spoke against the resolution was that it was CSG’s role to only approve this type of resolution for consideration by the school’s financial office if it felt there was a wide consensus on the issue, but the divisiveness on campus spoke to the wide divide.
While a vote would have just been to write a report and divest from U.S. rather than even Israeli companies, the outcome would have been perceived as a victory for the large Muslim population at the school.