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President Hamilton's Response to BDS is unacceptable

In a historic move, the NYU Graduate Student Organizing Committee, a union that represents roughly 1,200 graduate students, recently voted to endorse ...

May 7, 2016

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In a historic move, the NYU Graduate Student Organizing Committee, a union that represents roughly 1,200 graduate students, recently voted to endorse and join the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, a global non-violent movement aimed at challenging Israeli apartheid. The BDS movement calls for NYU to withdraw from Israeli academic institutions involved in the violations of the human and civil rights of the Palestinian people. Out of the more than 645 union members who participated in the vote, a majority of 66% voted to endorse and join the BDS movement.
For those who are unaware, the BDS movement’s objectives are:
“1. Ending its [Israeli] occupation and colonization of all Arab lands occupied in June 1967 and dismantling the Wall;
  1. Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality;
  2. Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN Resolution 194."
To our disappointment, NYU’s President Andrew Hamilton attacked the decision of the GSOC in a way that we believe is insulting to both the cause of Palestinian human rights and the democratic vote put forth by the GSOC. In the memo responding to the vote, President Hamilton used “academic freedom” to justify the boycott's rejection, completely neglecting the BDS movement’s intention of calling for justice and the rights of the Palestinian people.
The GSOC’s vote called for NYU to break ties with academic institutions that are funded by the Israeli government. The intention of this decision was not to limit academic freedom but to advocate for the basic human rights of the Palestinian people, as well as to demonstrate against the academic restriction forced upon them by the Israeli occupation. It called for the academic freedom of Palestinians constrained by the violations of the Israeli government.
We are deeply disheartened by President Hamilton's inconsiderate statement since it undermines the voices of the Palestinian people and NYU’s own students who fell victims to the occupation, the academic freedom of Palestinian students and the democratic decision put forth by students that belong to the very institute he is leading. More importantly, this situation sheds light on a larger trend that we are frustrated with — the utter dismissal of student concerns and imbalance of responses in many situations that the NYU leadership might deem unimportant or  “at odds with the University's position.”
In response to President Hamilton's discouraging position, members of the GSOC have issued an important statement that we fully agree with and choose to share with our NYU Abu Dhabi community. This statement conforms with the BDS movement’s objectives, which we stand by. We hope that this clarification of the objectives of the BDS movement will encourage President Hamilton to reconsider his public statements, which have only led to the marginalization of his own students.
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