Penn students who oppose the upcoming Boycott, Divest and Sanctions conference now have a formalized venue in which they can voice their opinion.
Days before the conference is set to begin at Penn, a petition written by Penn Israel Public Affairs Committee is currently being circulated online through a Google Doc. The petition, which began circulation on Sunday night, hopes to garner 1000 signatures, and the group is looking to secure a meeting with administrators. As of 12:30 a.m. on Jan. 31, the petition had 533 signatures.
The four-pronged petition demands that the University invest $1 million in Israeli-based companies and technologies, that President Amy Gutmann write an editorial supporting Penn-Israeli ties, that a public statement be issued by Gutmann to encourage joint programs with Israeli universities and that Penn offer more Israeli studies courses.
The University published a statement on Dec. 23 saying that it “does not support sanctions or boycotts against Israel.” Penn is not sanctioning or sponsoring the conference.
Abbas Naqvi, Penn BDS co-founder and graduate student in Biology was not surprised by the petition.
“I think all of this is just to create some kind of hostile environment to try to delegitimize … BDS,” Naqvi said. “It’s absurd … because we already invest so much in Israel.”
“The best way to show Penn’s support for Israel is to do exactly the opposite of what BDS is trying to accomplish,” said Susan Finch, College sophomore and PIPAC Campus Electoral Coordinator.
“Every student that’s signing … thinks the administration needs to take action and needs to step up,” said College sophomore Samara Gordon, PIPAC’s campus relations coordinator.
Gordon added that Penn alumni are working on a parallel petition.
Although PIPAC does not have plans for action during the conference, it has collected signatures of over 50 student leaders as part of a separate initative to show their support for a strong US-Israeli relationship, according to Finch.
“We plan to show Penn, Israel and the country that Penn students, faculty and alumni strongly support US-Israeli relations,” Finch said.