Students gather to continue debating ASA boycott of Israeli universities

Elizabeth Kim, Reporter

Students from opposing sides of a boycott of Israeli universities came together Monday night to discuss the issue and how students can effectively engage the conversation.

About 20 people attended the panel in University Hall that was hosted by NU Political Union and the American studies program. Weinberg senior Sam Ide moderated, asking the panelists questions for an hour and then opening the floor to the audience.

The event was held to promote student involvement and discussion in reaction to a statement from University President Morton Schapiro and Provost Dan Linzer opposing the American Studies Association boycott.

“We wanted people to get a sense of not just the Israel-Palestine issue but also get a sense of what is the validity of the boycott and boycotts in general,” said Weinberg junior Adam Roth, who co-organized the panel. “We’re not the only ones who did a panel on this resolution, but many of the other groups that have done it have taken a decidedly definitive view. So we wanted to make one that is very neutral, non-combative, but also one that is not an echo chamber.”

The four panelists were from J Street U Northwestern, Wildcats for Israel and Students for Justice in Palestine.

The discussion centered around the role of student-to-student interactions and the purpose of boycotts in academic institutions. The panelists spoke from their own personal viewpoints and about their respective student organizations.

Weinberg junior Josh Boxerman, J Street U Northwestern co-founder, focused on the role of students in leading the U.S. initiative to find a solution to the conflict.

“We think that our conversation on campus actually does translate into an effect on the ground,” Boxerman said. “Obviously, this was more of setting up the views next to each other.”

SJP co-president Moira Geary and member Serene Darwish both expressed concern over the power dynamic between Israel and Palestine and emphasized the boycott is an effective method to hold Israeli institutions accountable.

“University presidents have never been the freedom fighters for human rights,” said Geary, a Weinberg junior.

The strategic tie the U.S. and Israel share has led to the movement of university presidents and the need for both nations to recognize each other in order for a solution to be reached, said Jonathan Kamel, president of Wildcats for Israel. Kamel, a Weinberg sophomore and former Daily columnist, emphasized the importance of both nations cooperating to find a peaceful solution.

Tahera Ahmad, associate university chaplain at the office of religious life, said the panel was successful in covering all sides of the conflict, and in effectively debating and discussing the issue.

“I’m very proud of the groups that participated and the individuals who contributed to the dialogue,” Ahmad said. “Although clearly they have different opinions and perspectives, what’s most important is that they are able to come together and have that discussion and share their ideas and perspectives on this issue.”

Weinberg junior Daniel Palacios said he thought the conversation was productive and that each member contributed in a positive way.

“I have been going to these political discussions for a while and I think I will continue to go,” Palacios said. “Definitely.”

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