The national executive of the National Union of Students (NUS) voted yesterday to support the BDS (boycott, divestment, and sanctions) movement against Israel.
Originally a motion intended for the union’s national conference, the executive voted to “affiliate to the BDS movement”, “reaffirm NUS policy on boycotting companies which have been identified as being complicit in human rights abuses in Israel/Palestine”, and “call upon the UK government to stop arming Israel”.
BDS involves boycotting products, companies, and academics from Israel; getting universities to take their investments out of Israeli businesses; and encouraging the UK government to impose sanctions on the Israeli government – all as a method of forcing the Israeli government to stop perpetuating human rights abuses in disputed territories.
Student unions at Exeter, Keele, Brunel, Goldsmiths, Swansea, the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), Birkbeck, and Kingston have already passed their own motions in favour of the BDS campaign. Groups at other universities are also campaigning for their SUs to join the movement, including here in Lincoln.
The NUS’ action was confirmed by 19 votes for to 14 against. While the ballot was conducted secretly, one of the nay-sayers, Joe Vinson (NUS VP Further Education), tweeted that the plans were a front for anti-Semitism:
Antisemitism is like a virus, it mutates and infects everything it touches. It's mutated into BDS and NUS is infected. #nusnec
— Joe Vinson (@JoeVinson) June 2, 2015
Meanwhile, the Union of Jewish Students accused the NUS of “playing at politics”, adding: “This year, Jewish students collected over 2,000 signatures from more than ten campuses in support of a two state solution and against BDS. But, it seems that this loud voice is not enough. NUS NEC continues to ignore this critical mass and blindly dismiss Jewish students’ experiences.”
The deputy British ambassador to Israel, Dr. Rob Dixon, told The Times of Israel: “The reality is one of rapidly strengthening links between British and Israeli universities in science and academic cooperation. As David Cameron has said, the UK Government will never allow those who want to boycott Israel to shut down 60 years’ worth of vibrant exchange and partnership that does so much to make both our countries stronger.”
However, SOAS’ Sai Englert accused the opposition to the motion of “attempting to smear” the boycotters:
I wonder wether pro-South African Apartheid activists attempted to smear the solidarity movement as racist, or is that only Zio's #nusnec
— Sai Englert (@SaiEnglert) June 2, 2015
The NUS also voted for a national day of student action on 29 November, UN Palestine Solidarity Day.
Do you support using BDS to counter Israeli human rights abuses? Should the University of Lincoln Students’ Union join other universities in the movement? Vote in our poll:Tweet