Brown students pass referendum demanding university divest from Israeli firms

(JTA) — Brown University undergraduates voted in favor of a referendum to boycott Israel by a more than 2-to-1 margin.

The Brown Divest campaign reported the results of the vote on Facebook Thursday, announcing that the referendum before the Undergraduate Council of Students had received 69 percent of the 3,076 votes cast at the Ivy League school in Providence, Rhode Island.

The nonbinding measure proposes to “identify and divest from companies that profit from Israeli violations of human rights” and accuses the university of furthering actions that “engage in human-rights violations” for its cooperation with Israel or firms that work with Israel.

The Brown administration had not commented publicly on the referendum as of Thursday.

Among the Jewish groups that criticized the referendum as an element of a campaign to put an end to Israel as a Jewish state were members of the Brown chapter of the Beta Rho Pi fraternity, which used to be called AEPi.

“As members of a Jewish organization, we feel obliged to speak out and describe our own discomfort with the proliferation of this sentiment at Brown,” they wrote on Facebook. “This has been especially difficult with the rise of the Brown Divest campaign, including the construction of the ‘Apartheid Wall’ on the Main Green and a litany of inflammatory posts online aimed at the Jewish community. These posts have normalized rhetoric on campus that makes us, and many members of Brown’s Jewish community, feel deeply uncomfortable.”

Earlier this month, Swarthmore College student leaders passed a similar motion. In December, the Student Government Assembly at New York University passed a resolution saying the school should divest from businesses that sell to the Israeli army. A number of similar boycott Israel resolutions have failed.