The University of Michigan’s LSA Student Government (LSA SG) met virtually in a special meeting on Wednesday night to debate and pass a proposed resolution condemning violence against the Palestinian people and what some members believed to be a system of apartheid in Israel.
The resolution, coded as R F2021.06, says that it is LSA SG’s responsibility to represent Palestinian students on campus and to help the student population become more educated on the oppression of Palestinians.
“LSA SG urges other members of the U-M community to collectively work together to educate themselves on the issue of the persecution of the Palestinian people, uplift Palestinian voices on campus, and protect community members who use their first amendment rights to criticize the Israeli government in a legitimate way,” the resolution reads.
The special meeting was called after the resolution was discussed and then tabled at a May 26 regular meeting. The motion to table the resolution until Wednesday narrowly passed 11-10 with 3 abstaining. At the same May 26 meeting, LSA SG unanimously passed a separate resolution, coded R F2020.05, condemning the recent rise in antisemitism.
“LSA SG stands in solidarity with all Jewish members of our community during this period of increased hate,” the resolution reads. “In the pursuit of anti-racism, LSA SG commits itself to actively addressing any and all instances of antisemitism on campus and will seek to partner with relevant student groups such as Michigan Hillel to identify such instances.”
LSA SG’s effort to speak out against the violence in Israel comes after many organizations and institutions on campus have released similar statements. Without convening first to discuss a potential message, executive leaders of the University’s Central Student Government put out a statement in support of Palestinian Solidarity in mid-May that received mixed reactions from the campus community.
In addition to showing support for the Palestinian community, LSA SG also marked the resolution as as an important step in aligning the organization with the University’s central values of diversity, equity and inclusion.
“Because LSA SG and our university as a whole commits itself to actively combat racial injustice, it is important that our complicity in the violent attacks on Gaza and the Israeli system of apartheid be recognized,” the resolution reads.
During the portion of the meeting where students had the opportunity to voice their opinions on the issue, many expressed their disappointment with LSA SG for not releasing a statement sooner. LSA student Duaa Caldwell said she finds the argument that there are “two sides” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to be flawed.
“Both sides don’t exist when one of them is a nuclear-powered, militarized settler colony that is occupying an indigenous people who have no comparable amount of force,” Caldwell said. “I think that LSA Student Government condemning Israeli war crimes is the bare minimum they can do, and it should not ever be this difficult to value Palestinian lives.”
U-M alum Zuzu Weinger also said he supported the resolution and wished the LSA SG could have spoken out about the violence against Palestinians sooner.
“I am a Jewish student on campus and I think it’s pretty absurd that we have been able to pass a resolution for antisemitism on campus and not a resolution for Palestinians on campus,” Weinger said. “I think that is a little bit racist and shows where support lies for majority-white Jews on campus and not for Palestinian students on campus, who I have heard are feeling a bit abandoned at this moment.”
However, not everyone present at the meeting supported the resolution. LSA and Public Policy junior Adam Grimes, the former vice-chair of LSA SG’s Internal Review Committee, said he was against passing the resolution due to his belief that the language used in the resolution could be interpreted as antisemitic. Specifically, Grimes said he thinks words including “apartheid” and “ethnic supremacy” convey unfair comparisons.
“A more productive way to keep it would be to keep this resolution to say that we recognize those hurting and condemn violence by Hamas and the Israeli government and work towards a productive conversation amongst our beautifully diverse student body as has been recognized by this forum this evening,” Grimes said.
Following the public-comment segment of the meeting, elected representatives had the chance to also share their own thoughts regarding the discussion of the issue. LSA sophomore William Addison said as an elected representative, he felt sorry that LSA SG had left Palestinian students feeling under represented and disappointed by not taking action and releasing a statement sooner.
“I want to apologize on behalf of the student government and us as an organization not representing you,” Addison said. “It’s obvious through your comments and your opinions as constituents that we have not done our service.”
After deliberation involving both student constituents and LSA elected representatives, the LSA SG voted to pass the resolution 17-3.
Reflecting on the discussion, LSA junior Salma Hamamy said she was actually surprised the student government voted to pass the resolution since she had grown used to feeling overlooked and underrepresented.
“I really wanted to say thank you to the 17 people who did vote yes to condemn the war crimes of the Israeli government against the Palestinians,” Hamamy said.
Summer Daily News Editor Lily Gooding can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.