SUNY BDS Protests SUNY Relations with Israel

Photo Courtesy of SUNY BDS

State University of New York Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (SUNY BDS) is a new organization run by undergraduate students, graduate students, faculty and staff members across SUNY campuses. Connected to a larger organization, the Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC), they seek to relinquish SUNY’s business relations with Israel and support Palestinian liberation. 

The Palestinian BNC, launched in 2005, is a “Palestinian led movement for freedom, justice and equality.” They uphold “the simple principle that Palestinians are entitled to the same rights as the rest of humanity.” The global coalition is made up of unions, academic associations, churches and grassroot movements. Members campaign worldwide and lobby for policy makers. Real change has been made, such as Israeli ships being prevented from docking around the world and local councils across Europe voting to join the BDS movement. 

On Feb. 8, students at the University at Albany staged a walkout in protest of SUNY’s collaboration with Israel. Organized by Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and Young Democratic Socialists of America (YDSA), they protested SUNY’s complacency in the deaths of Palestians and ties to multiple Israeli universities, such as Tel Aviv University and Ben-Gurion University of the Negev through study abroad programs. The protest was organized on the respective clubs’ Instagrams and garnered signatures for SUNY BDS’s petition, which so far has over 1,000 signatures.

SUNY BDS’s ultimate goal is to get all 64 SUNY schools involved in their movement and follow BDS’s goals, which are to “pressure Israel to (1) end occupation and colonization of Palestinian and Arab land and remove the separation wall, (2) grant full equality to Palestinians living in Israel and (3) allow the right of return of Palestinian refugees as granted in UN Resolution 194.” Despite only starting recently, they have gained a large following, with almost 1,000 followers on Instagram. They denounce all forms of hatred and discrimination, such as antisemitism, making an important distinction between the Jewish people and the state of Israel. According to their petition, “The conflation of anti-Zionism and antisemitism is employed to delegitimize and undermine the Palestinian cause.” 

Some of the connections between Israel and SUNY they are fighting against are “a homeland and cybersecurity research partnership between SUNY Albany and Ben Gurion University in Negev (Naqab), state retirement plans, which have over $250 million invested in Israeli bonds and a partnership between Stony Brook University and IBM, which provides technology to the Israeli military.” Many of these companies also have other problematic connections, like to ICE, prison labor and extensive releases of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. 

The New York State Executive order No.157 calls on the state to “divest all public funds supporting the Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions campaign against Israel.” This coalition is asking Kathy Hochul, the governor of New York State, to overturn this executive order. “For as long as SUNY maintains its economic ties and partnerships with corporations that directly aid the Israeli state in their violent campaign, we are complicit in the genocide of the Palestinian people.”