Virginia’s Attorney General’s letter to UVA board calls for moral clarity

by | Mar 14, 2024 | Latest News

On Friday, March 1, Attorney General Jason Miyares wrote the UVA Board of Visitors about a student led BDS referendum at the school. The complete text of the letter follows:

I write to you today with grave concern about the recent student-led referendum at the University of Virginia.
On October 7th, we bore witness to the most devastating terrorist attack in Israeli history, further compounded by the tragic reality that it also stands as the deadliest terrorist attack against Americans since 9/11, resulting in the loss of 32 innocent American lives. This was a slaughter of innocent infants, children, women, and the elderly, some of whom were Holocaust survivors.

That is why it was stunning that during a time when the terrorist organization Hamas continues to hold over 130 innocent men, women, and children hostage, the students at the University of Virginia decided to hold a referendum directly attacking the nation of Israel. The Anti-Defamation League has reported a 388% increase in antisemitic incidents. With rampant anti-Jewish bigotry being displayed on college campuses throughout our nation, it is disappointing to see UVA students put forth and then push a referendum that attacks the world’s only Jewish state.

It is concerning that many young Americans’ perspectives on Israel and the October 7th terrorist attacks could fuel support for terrorist organizations like Hamas and other radical groups and serve as a source of encouragement for these reprehensible actions. A December 17, 2023 Harvard-Harris poll of Americans aged 18-24 revealed alarming trends. While 58% of these young Americans surveyed acknowledged the threat of Hamas aiming for genocide against the Jews in Israel, nonetheless, 60% of this demographic group deemed Hamas’ October 7th terrorist attack justified.

The fact that a majority of young Americans surveyed feel that terrorism might be “justified” indicates a moral compass veering dangerously towards the rocky shoals of antisemitism.

Terrorism and kidnapping of the innocent must never be justified.

The Board should be aware that the Commonwealth of Virginia recently codified into law the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism, including the contemporary examples of antisemitism set forth therein. This defines antisemitism as “a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.” IHRA includes as an example of antisemitism “denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of Israel is a racist endeavor.”

The UVA referendum in question urges the University of Virginia and the University of Virginia Investment Management Company to participate in the international Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign. It is well-documented that the leaders and founders of the international BDS campaign believe in the destruction of Israel. Omar Barghouti, BDS Co-Founder, stated, “Most definitely, we oppose a Jewish state in any part of Palestine.” In addition, BDS fundamentally opposes the right of the Jewish people to national self-determination in any inch of Israel, rejecting a two-state solution, while using antisemitic language and tropes.

Time and time again, the BDS movement disguises its malicious intentions under the banner of “human rights,” yet inexplicably ignores the human rights abuses elsewhere around the world. It is telling, that of all the conflicts and territories across the globe, from Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine to the People’s Republic of China’s illegal occupation of Tibet and oppression of Uyghur Muslims, to conflicts in Syria and Yemen, students at UVA have only chosen to target the conflict involving the world’s only Jewish state.

I await the same organizers at UVA who pushed the BDS referendum to place as much effort to condemn the rape, sexual assault of innocent Jewish women, and the murder of the innocent.

Israel is a nation with a small size and an economy heavily reliant on exports. Proponents of BDS know that their actions could suffocate Israel’s economic viability and weaken its ability to defend itself and its citizens. Just like direct attacks from Hamas, BDS poses an existential threat to the Jewish state.

I hope that during a period marked by widespread moral confusion among the student body, the Board of Visitors at UVA will rise up and offer essential moral clarity. While this student vote is non-binding and non-actionable, my earnest desire is for the Board of Visitors to explicitly reject and definitively repudiate the misguided attempt by the UVA student body to undermine the legitimacy of Israel.

Thank you for all you do in service of the Commonwealth,


Jason S. Miyares
48th Attorney General of Virginia