Jewish students at the University of Michigan are expressing concern over a referendum campaign orchestrated by their peers that accuses Israel of genocide amid the war-torn country’s war with Hamas.
From Nov. 28 to 30, students at the University of Michigan are being given the opportunity to vote on two separate ballot measures – Assembly Resolution 13-025 (AR 13-025), which calls for the university to “investigate their investments in any apartheid regime” while recognizing “the millions of people undergoing genocide in Gaza as we speak,” and Assembly Resolution 13-026 (AR 13-026), which criticizes Hamas while condemning “the rise in Islamophobia, Antisemitism, and other forms of hate speech” amid the war.
Earlier this month, the Central Student Government at the university voted down (AR 13-025), the anti-Israel measure, when it was presented as a petition at the Assembly’s Oct. 31 meeting, according to The Michigan Review, one of the school’s newspapers. The CSG’s decision – with six voting in favor of the resolution, 21 voting against it, and three abstaining – sent the resolution to the student body for a vote.
Similarly, the CSG also rejected AR 13-026, which was offered in opposition to AR 13-025 at the time. A vote on AR 13-026 by the CSG – with five people voting in favor of it, 23 voting against it, and two abstaining – also resulted in the resolution being sent to the student body for a vote.
The CSG did, however, pass Assembly Resolution 13-024, which denounces “an ongoing climate of fear, as well as a culture of harassment and viewpoint discrimination” on campus as a result of the war.
Explaining the CSG’s votes, Patrick Szendro-Arceo, a representative for the governing body of the school, told The Michigan Review that the “issue is beyond us as representatives.”
“This [issue] is more to be decided by the actual students than by the representatives, who do not have the degree of knowledge or certainty on what is best to decide, so we decided to leave it up to the students. Student Government will not take a stance on which group we prefer over the other,” Szendro-Arceo told the outlet.
AR 13-025 came in response to remarks offered in October by University of Michigan President Santa J. Ono, who decried “the horrific attack by Hamas terrorists on Israeli citizens” and asked students to “be conscious, kind and compassionate to their peers during this difficult time.”
“This statement failed to address the developing situation in Gaza and the retaliatory offenses committed by Israel on innocent Palestinian lives. Furthermore, the University’s initial statement on this issue failed to mention the word ‘Palestine’ or ‘Gaza,’ causing entire student populations to feel unseen and theorized,” AR 13-025 states.
The resolution “requests the university to speak against apartheid regimes and speak for all people suffering violence and oppression across the world regardless of conflicts of interests held by the university and its endowment.”
Largely pushed by Students Aligned for Freedom and Equality (SAFE), an anti-Israel group described online as “a Palestinian solidarity organization and the Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) chapter at the University of Michigan–Ann Arbor,” AR 13-025 also calls for the university to “recognize the millions of people undergoing genocide in Gaza as we speak” and “put into action the very ideals it proudly teaches by loudly and clearly rewriting historically colonist-centered narratives about war, genocide, terrorism, and apartheid.”
Following Hamas terrorists’ Oct. 7 invasion and massacre in southern Israel, SAFE shared a series of posts to Instagram. One post made on the same day Hamas invaded Israel was captioned, “The Palestinian people have endured a brutal military occupation for decades. Tens of thousand[s] of lives have been taken away at the hands of Zionist colonial entity, Israel. Millions have been made refugees and millions more suffer under the apartheid regime. Palestinians have the right to defend themselves from their oppressors. To think otherwise is to declare that Palestinians are not human enough and worthy enough to live in dignity.”
“If you are only concerned about the reaction of the oppressed, rather than the cause of the oppression, you have taken the side of the inhumane,” the caption added. “Free Palestine. Long live the resistance towards freedom and collective liberation.”
The image shared by SAFE in the post, which appeared to include pro-Hamas language, declared that the “unprecedented and ongoing resistance by Palestinians from Gaza, that caught Israel by surprise, did not happen in a vacuum. This is the response of a people pushed beyond endurance.”
Another post by the group, shared on Oct. 8, advertised a pro-Palestine rally in Detroit and claimed the “resistance’s offensive attack has shaped a new precedent for our national liberation struggle and we remain steadfast in our right to resist imperialism in all its forms.”
“ALL OUT FOR PALESTINE,” the advertisement, which included SAFE’s logo, stated.
The referendum campaign has left some students at the university feeling uneasy and led several pro-Israel students at the school to launch a “Vote No” campaign through Facts on the Ground (FOG), a group described online as a coalition of “students on campus working to ‘clear the fog’ of disinformation being spread in the wake of the October 7, 2023, attack and ongoing war between Israel and Hamas.”
“The AR 13-025 resolution being voted on by 50,000 plus students is despicable. AR 25 contains factually inaccurate language urging the university president and board of regents to condemn Israel as a settler colonialist apartheid regime that commits genocide,” Anna Raab, a junior at the University of Michigan, told Fox News Digital. “Those claims are factually inaccurate and historically false.”
Urging her peers to vote no on the resolution, Raab said AR 13-025 “sends a message that not all students are welcomed on this campus” and “targets Jewish and Israeli students by delegitimizing their right to exist and telling them that the antisemitism they experience is accepted on this campus.”
Raab also recalled how she was verbally assaulted on campus and called a “terrorist” by a pro-Palestinian protester, adding that she is “scared if AR 25 passes that the hatred that has pervaded our campus will continue to spread, threatening the safety of so many students.”
“I quickly realized she noticed the Hebrew letters on my necklace – a necklace I wear proudly for my grandmother, a Holocaust survivor who is still with us today at 98 years old,” Raab recalled of the assault. “My grandmother has warned me that the rhetoric being spread on campus and in AR 25 is eerily similar to the propaganda spread in Europe in the 1930s.”
Rachel Cusnir, another junior at the university, also expressed worry over the resolution, telling Fox that it is “extremely disheartening for University of Michigan students to vote on such inflammatory and false information.”
“This referendum is trying to convince students that Israel is committing genocide and ethnic cleansing,” she said. “Not only is that a blatant lie, but the ballot measure does not acknowledge the massacre that Hamas committed against innocent Israeli civilians on Oct. 7. The current war against Hamas is a necessary response and legitimate self-defense, and this petition fails to acknowledge that.”
“If this petition passes, Jewish students will have a target on their backs solely for being Jewish and supporting the only Jewish state in the world,” Cusnir added.
Rep. Kathy Manning, D-N.C., has spoken out against AR 13-025, saying she is “deeply disappointed that this divisive referendum has been put to a vote” while calling on students to “send a strong message against antisemitism.”
“I strongly condemn the referendum before the University of Michigan student body this week that refers to Israel as an ‘apartheid state’ and ‘settler colonialism’ while holding Israel solely responsible for the terrorist acts committed by Hamas on October 7, which killed 1,400 innocent civilians and saw 240 people taken hostage,” Manning said in a statement. “It is also troubling that this referendum was introduced in response to President Ono’s condemnation of the terrorism committed by Hamas. Denouncing terrorism should not be controversial.”
“Since October 7, antisemitism has skyrocketed, threatening students on college campuses. I call upon campus administrators to ensure the safety and security of all students, added Manning, a graduate of the University of Michigan.
As outlined in the University of Michigan Student Constitution, “If a simple majority of voting students vote to approve the legislation, it is adopted.” If a ballot question is adopted, “the Assembly must not legislate contrary to valid vote [sic] of the student body until the seating of a new Assembly,” which will take place after the election in March 2024.
A vote by students on both resolutions comes nearly two weeks after pro-Palestinian protesters on the University of Michigan’s campus forced their way into the Ruthven Administration Building, which houses Ono’s office. A spokesperson for the university confirmed at the time that protesters remained in the building well into the evening as police attempted to control the scene.
Other opposition to Israel’s efforts in the war were met with backlash from more than 1,000 professors and graduate students at the University of Michigan who signed on to a statement in October that claimed there is a “campaign of destruction being undertaken by the Israeli military against the entire civilian population in Gaza.”
The University of Michigan did not immediately respond to Fox News Digital’s request for comment.
Fox News’ Joseph A. Wulfsohn contributed to this report.