Few college students want to boycott Israel, study of four campuses finds


NEW YORK (JTA) — A study of four U.S. colleges found little support for academic boycotts of Israel among the students.

At each of the schools studied — Brandeis, Harvard, the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Michigan — less than 15 percent of non-Jewish students expressed support for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions and scholars, according to a study by the Steinhardt Social Research Institute at Brandeis. Only 7 percent of students at Michigan and Harvard expressed support for an academic boycott of Israel, while that number was 8 and 12, respectively, at Penn and Brandeis.

At each of the campuses, Jews make up more than 10 percent of the undergraduate student body.

The study, which was released this month, also found that relatively few Jewish students were exposed to anti-Semitism, though a higher proportion were exposed to hostile remarks about Israel.

Fewer than one in five Jewish students said they experienced discrimination due to their faith. For most kinds of discrimination the number was lower, but the report included what the study termed as “microaggressions,” which included being asked in class to offer the perspective of one’s identity group as well as being the object of jokes or teasing. Between 7 and 21 percent of Jewish students at the schools said they had been the subject of microaggressions or teasing.

Most Jewish students — 80 percent or more at all the campuses — said their school did not have a hostile environment toward Jews, but a higher proportion said campuses had a hostile environment toward Israel. At Michigan, 51 percent of Jewish students thought the campus had a hostile environment toward the Jewish state. That number was 32, 34 and 22 percent, respectively, at Harvard, Penn and Brandeis.

Most Jewish students did not place issues relating to Jews, Judaism or Israel as among the “most pressing” topics on campus — 20 percent or fewer of Jewish students listed such issues among the top three “pressing” ones on their campuses.

The Israel advocacy group StandWithUS told JTA that the findings were in line with its work on campuses.

“Based on our experience, we agree that there is minimal support among students for academic boycotts and other anti-Israel campaigns,” Max Samarov, the group’s executive director of research and campus strategy, said in an email. “While some student governments have passed divestment, most have rejected it and there has not been a single successful divestment referendum against Israel. Most students are simply not engaged in the issue and others are standing up to these campaigns of hate.”

Polling for the study was conducted via an email survey.

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