The sponsors of a BDS resolution proposed to the University of Houston Student Government Association (SGA) have withdrawn the resolution from the SGA's agenda. Thank you to the amazing students whose passion secured this dramatic outcome.
University of Houston Hillel's students had little more than a day's notice that the anti-Israel and anti-Semitic BDS resolution would appear on last week's SGA agenda during a typically uneventful summer SGA session. During that short period our students came together - more than a month after classes had ended - to address the resolution. With assistance from our partners at the Israel on Campus Coalition and Hillel International's Israel Action Program, five of our students drafted comments they would deliver during the SGA meeting, along with email messages to SGA Senators.
The BDS resolution's sponsor introduced it by claiming that the resolution is about facts, not opinions, preemptively marginalizing our students' feelings and emotions. Nonetheless, our students shared their experiences and feelings about being part of the UH Jewish community, and described how the BDS resolution would create a hostile environment for Jewish students.
Sarah shared that anti-Semitic incidents increase on campuses that pass such resolutions, and that passage of the resolution could trigger an increase of anti-Semitic incidents at the University of Houston.
Ben, a senior who during his first day on campus as a freshman was harassed because he had an Israeli flag button on his backpack, reminded the SGA that four years ago they had previously passed a resolution condemning Religious Student Harassment, and that in 2014 UH President Khator issued a statement condemning academic boycotts of Israel.
Nicole, whose grandmother survived the Holocaust because her family placed her in a Catholic orphanage, noted that the resolution would disproportionately impact Jewish students, who are more likely to engage in commerce with the State of Israel than other student groups.
Other students described how Jewish students already feel uncomfortable publicly expressing their Jewish identity on campus, and that the BDS resolution would further erode their comfort.
Our students learned yesterday that the BDS resolution was withdrawn. Our students were emotionally battered during the previous week's SGA meeting by some SGA Senators' attacks on Israel and their dismissive comments about our students concerns, to the point that some emotionally told us they could not go through the experience again without compromising their mental health. Had the resolution remained on the agenda, our students would have faced a SGA committee discussion and a second SGA meeting during which our students expected the resolution to be adopted.
In the end, our students' passionate and heartfelt words spoke to many of the SGA Senators' sense of the SGA's purpose and their concern for all students. Many were unaware of Jewish students' experiences of anti-Semitism at UH. It speaks volumes that the BDS resolution was pulled before even being addressed at the committee level, let alone prior to a vote by the full SGA. This outcome is a direct result of our students' efforts.
Houston Hillel has sustained our students every step of the way, offering staff support, guidance, and deep connections to the University of Houston administration and the entire campus community.
Thank you for your support of our work with Jewish and pro-Israel students at the University of Houston.
Rabbi Kenny Weiss