At a raucous, nearly five-hour meeting Tuesday night, the Student Association (SA) Congress, in a momentous vote, passed a resolution expressing the SA’s support for Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS). Shortly after midnight, 14 representatives voted in favor, 11 voted against, two abstained and one vote was deemed invalid.

With the resolution’s passage, Binghamton University becomes one of the first SUNYs to pass student legislation divesting from institutions supporting Israel’s military campaign. It also directs the SA to recognize Israel’s military campaign in Gaza as a genocide and Israel as an apartheid state.

A crowd of hundreds gathered amid a heavy police presence long before the meeting’s scheduled 7:45 p.m. start in Old Union Hall. Present was Amanda Finch, the new dean of students, and FOX 40, a local news station. The room reached capacity by 8 p.m., and the SA sent a Zoom link on SA-Line.

The legislation, titled “Resolution Calling for [BU] Divestment,” was primarily organized by the Divest From Death campaign, led by a coalition of now-20 student organizations. One of their core demands was for the SA to use its platform to pressure University administrators to sever partnerships with the defense industry.

“Companies like Lockheed Martin and BAE Systems have no place on our campus, and the student body has made it resoundingly clear that we stand firmly against the investment of our tuition funds and endowment into an industry that manufactures weapons of war and mass destruction,” the campaign’s organizers wrote in a statement to Pipe Dream.

The University and SUNY did not respond to requests for comment.

The legislation survived several attempts to defeat it by an organized opposition, including BU’s Zionist Organization (BUZO), which organized a petition that collected over 7,000 signatures. Opponents of the legislation held Israeli flags and signs, cheering loudly when anti-BDS representatives spoke. They argued BDS would fuel antisemitism on campus and further divide the community.

As the resolution hit the floor, Saul Hakim, BUZO’s president and an off-campus college representative, motioned to remove it from the agenda. He argued precedent should have prevented the bill’s consideration, referencing past actions from the SUNY SA and the SA Congress itself.

He ultimately withdrew the motion after a large majority voted to end debate. The resolution, however, was amended to explicitly include the return of hostages, which was introduced by the bill’s opposition and ultimately supported by both sides.

The resolution was then presented by its authors — Omar Acosta-Nuñez and Tyler Brechner, who drew on his Jewish identity and the concept of “tikkun olam,” a principle meaning “to repair the world.”

“Tonight, we have a political and moral question on the agenda — not a religious one,” Brechner said. “Opposition to Israeli apartheid and genocide is a necessary and just stance, not an antisemitic one. Jews are not a monolith — I do not speak for all Jews, and neither does the opposition to this legislation. Conflating the Jewish community with support of Israel, however, assumes a bigoted, antisemitic trope that all Jews must be loyal to Israel.”

Acosta-Nuñez pointed to the history of the SA’s marked opposition to South African apartheid, referencing the activism of the SA’s then-president, Fred Azcarate, who told an offending company that they could “either continue to do business in South Africa, or continue to do business on the campus” in 1985.

“War profiteers have no place in our academic institutions,” Acosta-Nuñez said.

Brechner yielded the rest of his time to Binghamton City Councilman Nate Hotchkiss, who spoke about the council’s unanimous vote last week to endorse a cease-fire in Gaza.

Congress moved into a period where representatives were able to question the legislation’s authors. The first to speak, Hakim asked why the SA Congress should designate Israel’s campaign as a genocide when the United Nations’ International Court of Justice has not yet made that determination.

In response, Brechner said that the Israeli government has not abided by the conditions placed on it by the court and that the military has killed aid workers since the ruling.

Another question, asked by Nora Monasheri, the BU Council representative, was centered around what other opportunities would be offered to engineering students if the University severed ties with defense contractors.

“To suggest that there aren’t any other opportunities besides manufacturing weapons of war is insanely reckless and quite frankly, despicable,” Acosta-Nuñez responded.

After several other questions, representatives motioned to move into a debate period, which was structured to allow for 16 speakers — eight for and eight against — who were allotted three minutes each. Elected representatives had unlimited speaking privileges.

Hakim, the first speaker to express opposition to BDS, characterized the resolution’s Jewish supporters as being part of a “fringe minority,” referencing the hundreds of Jewish students who have opposed the effort.

“Do not allow the tokenization of Jewish identity to confuse you into thinking that this resolution does not bear antisemitic connotations,” Hakim said.

Kristina Donders, a Dickinson Community representative, yielded her speaking time to Amari Pavati, the president of the Yiddish Bund of Binghamton — a non-Zionist Jewish organization. He refuted Hakim’s claims of tokenization and described his personal experience growing up in Austin, Texas, saying “believe me when I say I know antisemitism.”

“This is entirely political protest — the same political protest used against apartheid in South Africa,” Pavati said. “Hopefully we can all agree military contractors don’t belong on our campus. This resolution is careful and sharp and important.”

Lauren Wilner, a Mountainview College representative, yielded her time to Arielle Schlissel, Hillel’s incoming president, who said her top priority was to ensure the safety and well-being of Jewish students on campus.

“I encourage you to think of your Jewish friends, classmates, professors, partners, roommates and peers,” she said. “How are you going to look them in the eyes and explain to them that this BDS resolution will not negatively impact them?”

Following the debate period, Hakim motioned to adjourn the meeting, which failed. The congress then moved to suspend normal rules and vote on the resolution — a procedure that requires a two-thirds majority. Two motions to recess and move up public comment subsequently failed.

A surprise came as the clock neared midnight, when a representative who had voted to suspend the rules attempted to change their vote, resulting in voting procedure not having enough votes to occur. As pro-Israel advocates cheered the results, the resolution’s supporters motioned to reconsider that vote. As congress deliberated, Daniel Croce, the SA’s vice president for finance, addressed the room, advising representatives to vote during the meeting. Though he said he was not speaking on behalf of the SA, he maintained that he has “always been neutral on this topic” which drew a strong reaction from the crowd.

This vote passed when another representative changed their vote, and the congress entered voting procedure on the resolution itself. The final vote passed before a cheering room.

Shortly after the legislation’s passage, a collective of Jewish organizations, including Hillel, Chabad, BUZO, MEOR and JLIC, released a statement on Instagram that said implementing BDS will lead to the normalization of antisemitism and further divide the campus community.

“Adopting BDS will stifle conversations, promote extreme hatred of Israel and target Jewish students and organizations on our campus,” the statement reads. “The impact of this resolution marginalizes Jewish students, who have been under increasing threat from sharply rising antisemitism since Oct. 7, seeks to limit their ability to express their full and authentic identities and divides friends, peers and campus communities.”

Hakim told Pipe Dream the resolution’s opponents will request a comprehensive review by the SA’s Judicial Board to ensure the legislation is compliant with the organization’s constitution and bylaws and precedents set by both SUNY’s and BU’s SAs, writing, “we hope the Judicial Board will evaluate these concerns diligently, focusing on legal and procedural accuracy rather than the political context.”

“The role of the Judicial Board regarding legislative review is to ensure all resolutions comply with the rules,” the Judicial Board wrote to Pipe Dream. “The Judicial Board will be looking over Resolution 11 without any bias or consideration of personal feelings, but rather solely based on the scope of the [SA’s] rules and regulations.”

Divest from Death coalition members celebrated the vote and its “emphasis on the preservation of human life and dignity.”

“Dedicated students stood outside for hours awaiting the passage of this resolution — even more were packed inside Old Union Hall, showing their solidarity with signs, flags and vocal support,” they wrote. “Passionate students spoke on personal experiences, Binghamton’s history of divestment and the tragedies unfolding in Gaza. We are the second SUNY to divest, and we won’t be the last — we have a world to win.”

This is a developing story. Pipe Dream’s coverage will continue over the coming weeks.

Editor’s Note: One of the resolution’s authors, Tyler Brechner, is a Pipe Dream News writer. He had no part in the writing or editing of this article.