BDS (boycott, divestment & sanctions) campaigns on U.S. college campuses delegitimize Israel and are seen by many as “a contemporary manifestation of antisemitism” (Brandies University Report, 2015). Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) are the organization most directly responsible for creating a hostile campus environment saturated with anti-Israel events, BDS initiatives, and speakers.
This document reports on and analyzes the resources, both financial and non financial, for these anti-Israel BDS campaigns, highlighting two tiers of BDS activities: (1) SJP’s requisitions of student government funds on nine California campuses; and (2) the central role and allocation of major resources, by a network of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), that support SJP and other BDS activists with financial assistance, training, and legal advice.
This report should be seen as a springboard for future research into SJP and its allies. Freedom of Information requests, where relevant, can help to shed light on the financial ties between various BDS-supporting groups and provide a clearer picture of the promotion of BDS on campuses throughout the United States.
As an organization, SJP exists without an apparent central leadership or central structural framework. Each SJP chapter operates independently and is responsible for forming its own constitutions, finding funding sources, and organizing activities. Indeed, several SJP chapters, such as Palestine Solidarity Committee at Harvard College and Students United for Palestinian Equal Rights at Washington University do not actually carry the name Students for Justice in Palestine. However, SJP has developed regional networks to aid in coordinating campaigns across several campuses, hinting at greater consolidation.
While the majority of visible funding for SJP activities comes from student governments, SJP chapters do receive funding from groups such as American Muslims for Palestine (AMP) and WESPAC. However, due to a fundamental lack of transparency on the part of SJP and its donors, only a fraction of SJP’s funding is known and publicly accessible. It is highly difficult to ascertain how much funding SJP receives from sources outside universities.
Background: NGOs that support campus BDS
Another set of BDS resources comes from a network of external NGOs that provide training and advice to campus activists. This includes the BDS “summer camp” run by Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) and American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), as well as AMP’s campus activism workshops. During the 2014-2015 academic year, JVP established chapters on 14 campuses in the United States. Similarly, AMP and Palestine Legal publish guidebooks designed to refine and hone the messages of BDS on campus, and AFSC official Dalit Baum has drafted divestment resolutions for student governments.
In order to determine the resources available to campus BDS activists from university sources, this report makes use of documents released through the Freedom of Information Act. These documents detail the transfer of funds from student governments to SJP groups, as well as the access to facilities, at nine California universities: UCLA, UC Davis, UC Santa Barbara, UC Irvine, UC Riverside, UC Berkeley, San Francisco State, San Diego State and California Polytechnic State. The majority of the documents obtained are from 2010-2015, although some date back to 2001.