Princeton University. (Pete Spiro/Shutterstock) (Pete Spiro/Shutterstock)
Princeton University

A resolution presented at Princeton University calling for a boycott of companies doing business with Israel was defeated by a very narrow margin.

A resolution presented by an undergraduate student at Princeton University, New Jersey, that would have called on the administration to divest from companies dealing with Israel was voted down, the Daily Princetonian reported on Friday.

Slightly more than half of the participating students voted against the referendum, which called on the university to divest from companies “that maintain the infrastructure of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, facilitate Israel’s and Egypt’s collective punishment of Palestinian civilians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, or facilitate state repression against Palestinians by Israeli, Egyptian and Palestinian Authority security force.”

Princeton Committee on Palestine board member Katie Horvath explained that although the movement for divestment had been “significant,” she was not surprised at the outcome of the vote. “We knew from the outset that this was going to be an uphill battle, and we had done our research and looked at the previous divestment movements at Princeton,” Horvath told the Princetonian .

A BDS activist in Egypt. (AP/Amr Nabil)

A BDS activist in Egypt. (AP/Amr Nabil)

Short of only a few votes, she remains optimistic that with more “outreach and slightly increased support” the referendum would pass in the future.

She also expressed hope that the anti-Israel movement would spread to other campuses, following Princeton’s lead. “If we can run a campaign here, on a campus that has so recently been apathetic and historically has been very resistant to divestment and to change, this could happen anywhere,” Horvath said. “A lot of schools will have even more success the first time around than we had.”

Another anti-Israel referendum may be presented next year.

Looking for Ways to Bring Peace

Elise Backman, a member of the No Divest coalition, said she and her colleagues have been talking to as many students as possible about alternative ways to promote a two-state solution and sustainable peace among Israelis and Palestinians in a “positive and constructive” manner.

“We were just really proud that the majority of the voting students saw through the misleading language of the referendum and ended up rejecting what we saw as a counterproductive proposition, especially coming from the university forum,” she told the college daily. ”We don’t believe that it’s a productive policy tool to improve the status quo in the region.”

“Moving forward, we really want to focus on impacting the region in as positive and constructive a way that we can, and we hope that other students will join us in that endeavor,” Backman added. The “positive and constructive” impact on the ground consists of supporting organizations that work on development issues for Israelis and Palestinians, like entrepreneurship and water scarcity.

American universities have been the site of battles between anti and pro Israel student bodies, with the focus on the passage of anti-Israel BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) resolutions by student bodies. Pro-divestment resolutions were passed at a number of campuses, including Stanford, Loyola and Berkeley.

Pro-Israel students decided to fight back against BDS and launched a counter initiative of their own on the campus of the University of New Orleans to divest from Palestinian Authority (PA).

On Tuesday, the Tennessee legislature became the first US state legislature to condemn the BDS movement directed against Israel.