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University of Windsor students vote to boycott Israel

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(JTA) — Students at the University of Windsor in Ontario passed a referendum supporting the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement targeting Israel.

The resolution, which passed on Saturday, will force the University of Windsor Student Alliance to cut ties with companies said to do business with Israel including Costco, Sears, Home Depot and Canadian Tire, and to look into whether their investment portfolio has any ties to the Jewish state, according to the Lance, the school’s student newspaper.

“We let all students voice their concerns on this issue, and so we feel that it makes a stronger statement,” Mohammed Almoayad, president of the school’s Palestinian Solidarity Group, told the Windsor Star. “We are very proud.”

But one of the members of the group campaigning against the referendum said its passage has caused a hostile environment on campus for Jewish and pro-Israel students.

“Unfortunately, the University of Windsor is not a safe place for Jewish students anymore, “ David, who did not share his last name out of safety concerns, told the Star. “With this BDS campaign, you don’t feel safe if you have a kippah or even a T-shirt with Hebrew letters on it.”

When referendum voting began last week, student council member Jake De Jong had his office ransacked and a Star of David and the word “Zionist” spray-painted on a “Support Our Troops” banner hanging on the wall of his office. Police are investigating the incident.

Alan Wildeman, Windsor’s president, said the university was investigating the referendum process and its potential outcomes after receiving several complaints.

“The University of Windsor will be uncompromising in its commitment to continue to be a place that is welcoming and safe for all students,” Wildeman said in a statement.

The referendum passed with 798 students in favor and 585 opposed. The total undergraduate enrollment at the university is around 14,000.

While several student councils in Canada and the United States have approved similar resolutions, a student-wide referendum is highly unusual.

In 2012, the university’s campus library removed three globes from display after Israel was scratched of its surface, according to the Lance.

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