London students see wave of anti-Israel activity

The National Union of Students adopted a motion branding Israel an “apartheid regime”, calling for student participation in Gaza protest flotillas.

May 20, 2011 05:49
3 minute read.
BDS Israel

BDS Israel. (photo credit: Courtesy)

LONDON – The UK’s National Union of Students can no longer play a credible role in ensuring balanced debate on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Union of Jewish Students said after the NUS adopted a motion this week branding Israel an “apartheid regime” and calling for students to participate in Gaza protest flotillas.

The Union of Jewish Students said that 10 activists – most of them ex-students – spoke on behalf of 7 million students by endorsing “an extreme, one sided motion” which calls for Israel to end the blockade of Hamas-controlled Gaza and accept the Palestinians’ “right of return.”

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The motion also calls for the National Union of Students to participate in flotillas to Gaza and to partner with Gaza universities, particularly the Islamic University, a Hamas stronghold.

“Without consultation and after just 20 minutes’ farcical debate, NUS agreed to a motion that does nothing to further peace or justice for the Palestinians, and everything to increase tensions on campuses across the country,” UJS said in a statement on Wednesday.

The Jewish student representative organization said the highly politicized motion and been pushed through by a tiny minority.

“By refusing to acknowledge both narratives on this most contested of issues, NUS has done a disservice to its students and to the many students’ unions across the country who work hard to ensure a balanced debate on Israel-Palestine.

“For many years, NUS has played a key role in ensuring balanced debate on Israel-Palestine, critical to ensuring good relations on campus. NUS can no longer credibly play this role,” the Union of Jewish Students said.

“NUS must work hard to re-establish its credibility by rejecting gesture politics, and adopting policy that reflects the will of its student members, not just a vocal minority.”

Also on Wednesday, the Student Union of the University of London, which is made up of 19 self-governing colleges and 10 smaller specialist research institutes, voted to implement a boycott campaign against Israel.

The University of London Union (ULU) voted 10-1 to look at its investments and contracts with companies guilty of “violating Palestinian human rights as set out by the Palestinian Boycott National Committee,” and called on other students’ unions to join in the campaign for Palestinian human rights. The motion was put forward by far-left activist students.

It is yet to be seen what investments the union has in Israeli companies or if it stocks any products sourced from Israel.

ULU is totally independent from the universities so there is no obligation on any of the University of London member institutions.

Speaking in favour of the motion was London School of Economics ULU representative Ashok Kumar, who said: “We have precedents for boycotting campaigns at ULU, especially with South Africa and the boycott campaign over Barclays bank, that supported the Apartheid regime. We are now responding to the Palestinian call for civil action in support of their fight against racism.”

Activist student James Haywood, president- elect at Goldsmiths Students’ Union, said he was “delighted” that the motion has passed.

Sean Rillo Raczka, incoming ULU vice president, said, “I’m delighted that ULU has passed this BDS policy on Israel. We stand in solidarity with the oppressed Palestinian people. Next year I will ensure that the University of London Union does not give profit to those denying the human rights of the Palestinians.”

Carly McKenzie, campaigns director for the Union of Jewish Students, said the motion was the work of the out-going ULU president and anti-Israel activist Clare Solomon “pushing unrepresentative policy through the back door.”

“Seven colleges out of a possible 20 were represented at the meeting, maybe the far left have realized that the wider student population do not share their warped views,” McKenzie said.

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