NU Divest challenges myths about BDS
  • Recent Northwestern graduate Melisa Stephen discussed Israel's use of pinkwashing - the act of portraying itself as LGBTQ-friendly - in order to downplay other injustices.
  • Approximately 50 people attended NU Divest's "The B.S. about BDS" event Thursday evening. The BDS movement responds to a 2005 call by Palestinian civil society for the end of Israeli occupation and colonization of Palestinian land.
  • McCormick sophomore Omar Shanti discussed the individual components of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement and explained how they can be effective.
  • Weinberg junior Hazim Abdullah, Weinberg alum Melisa Stephen and McCormick sophomore Omar Shanti tackled several myths about BDS during the event.
  • Weinberg junior Kevin Luong, the ASG senator for APAC/CSA/TASC/KASA, reflected on the 40-year anniversary of the fall of Saigon as he described his support of NU Divest and the importance of having a homeland to go back to.
Photos by Madhuri Sathish / North by Northwestern

Members of NU Divest held an event called “The ‘B.S.’ about B.D.S.” on Thursday in response to mischaracterizing accusations made about the divestment resolution and the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement

Approximately 50 people packed into University Hall 112 for an intimate discussion on what has happened on campus since the passing of the resolution by the ASG Senate on Feb. 19, as well as the issues that were misaddressed during the campaign.

Recent alum Melisa Stephen opened the conversation by criticizing Israel's “pinkwashing" campaign. Stephen described pinkwashing as a branding technique used by Israel to promote itself as a safe haven for LGBTQ people.

“That is not necessarily true; it’s not a safe place for queer and trans people, especially for Palestinians,” Stephen said, responding to the claim that Israel is the only country in the Middle East that has rights for the LGBTQ community.

Weinberg junior Kevin Luong, outgoing external president of APAC and the ASG senator for APAC/CSA/TASC/KASA, brought up that using the word “divisive” to describe NU Divest’s movement is not appropriate.

“It was more of a surprise than divisive,” he said. “It came up so fast that I think students didn’t have time to react.”

With more time, Luong hopes that people can look back at the movement and “they’ll see what we are fighting for.”

Following Luong’s short speech, Weinberg junior Hazim Abdullah explained the specific language of the resolution.

“Equality, freedom and dignity are the spearhead of this bill,” Abdullah said.

A few of the points that were touched upon were, students have no input or information on the University’s investment, that Northwestern “lags behind in socially responsible investment” and that this bill was a “response to the divestment component of the [BDS] call,” according to Abdullah.

The corporations specifically mentioned in the divestment resolution were chosen because they are directly complicit in the occupation of Palestinian territory.

“We felt that it was important to do what we can to urge our university to stop being complicit in the corporations that are gaining from the financial profit of human rights violations,” Abdullah said.

McCormick sophomore Omar Shanti followed with a PowerPoint presentation that explained what the BDS movement is and what it stands for.

“BDS is an apolitical movement in solidarity with the Palestinian civil society, anchored in universal human rights,” Shanti said.

The BDS movement is not condemning any one country, but rather condemning the actions being perpetrated against human rights.

Shanti went on to describe the living conditions in refugee housing, the deaths that take place at overcrowded checkpoints, police brutality and the destruction of Palestinian property.

“Every member of the BDS movement actively rejects racism,” Shanti said.

He showed a list of supporters for the BDS movement and touched on the fact that it can be and is supported by Jewish groups, as well as public figures like Bill Gates and organizations that cross many different avenues.

“Northwestern has joined a large community of people, rights-based people, who are taking a stand against the systems of oppression that we live in today,” Shanti said. 


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