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SJP’s underhanded tactics at Loyola U

The pro-Palestinian student group is forgoing political theatrics to target campus governance and fiscal policy

On March 18, 2014, the student government at my Alma Matter, Loyola University Chicago, passed a Divestment resolution against Israel with 26 in favor, 0 opposed, and with 2 abstentions. This resolution was merely the latest in a series of such tactics that have been going on in force since last spring.

What is the most concerning about this latest Boycott, Divestment Sanctions (BDS) effort, however, is the underhanded and un-democratic way in which it played out. You see, there was no debate or opposition, because Loyola’s Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) chapter surprise introduced the resolution during the student government meeting with no advanced posting or advertisement. As of this writing, the resolution singling out Israel for divestment has still yet to be posted and made public on Loyola’s website.

How was SJP able to accomplish such a feat? Well, SJP has shifted its tactics away from the street theater of Israel Apartheid Week that made them look too radical to many on campus, and instead has been steadily infiltrating campus institutions like student newspapers and student government. At Loyola there are at least 5 members of the SJP, including the group’s president, who are student senators.

According to Loyola’s student government’s (USGA) bylaws, a bill can be presented during a meeting if it has 5 USGA members as co-sponsors. Obviously for SJP this was a fait accompli.

SJP was able to steamroll this latest incarnation of the insidious BDS movement, which seeks to destroy Israel, by playing the worst kind of undemocratic political maneuvering. Because there was no public announcement that this bill will be presented, there was no debate and not one word was heard in opposition, and that was by design.

Why would SJP resort to such underhanded tactics if their cause is so just? Their actions are a testament to the fact that BDS has been defeated at almost every university where it has been given a fair trial and argued on its merits. On the same evening, March 18th, Arizona State University and the University of Michigan’s divestment resolutions were tabled indefinitely after vigorous debates. At the University of Arizona and other colleges where similar underhanded tactics were used, pro-Israel students challenged and then overturned the vote at the next student government meeting.

My sincere hope is that this undemocratic travesty will be vetoed by the Loyola USGA president, and sent back for a proper debate where both sides of this contentious and highly controversial issue can be heard. USGA members need to understand just how they have been hoodwinked by their SJP peers in the student government, and hopefully there will be a commitment to democratic principles and give BDS against Israel a fair trial by considering all sides of the issue by understanding the facts, rationale and consequences of a divestment vote to the university.

About the Author
Brett Cohen lives in Tel Aviv, Israel and is currently pursuing a Masters Degree in Archaeology and Cultural History at Tel Aviv University. A native of the South Side of Chicago, Brett graduated from Loyola University Chicago in 2008 with degrees in Political Science, International Studies, and Anthropology. From 2008-2016 Brett was a leader in the pro-Israel campus movement in North America, serving as Executive Director of Campus Affairs for StandWithUs. He has also been a long time campaigner for LGBT rights, pioneering marriage equality in Illinois by marrying his husband in 2012.
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