LONDON – A controversial motion calling for a blanket boycott of Israel by
students at Oxford University is expected to be resoundingly rejected this
The Oxford University Students’ Union (OUSU) is scheduled to
discuss the motion on Wednesday, which calls for the student union to boycott
Israeli institutions, goods and produce. It also calls for the OUSU and National
Union of Students to join the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign, known
as the BDS movement, against the Jewish state.
Currently there are only
six votes in favor of the motion, around 64 against and 17 abstentions according
to sources. Oxford University’s collegiate system is made up of 38 colleges and
six private halls founded by various Christian denominations. Each college has a
“junior common room” that votes at the OUSU. The number of votes each college
has is determined by the size of the college.
The motion reads, “We [the
OUSU and the NUS] have a moral responsibility to fight injustice,” and demands
that Israel “end its occupation of all Arab lands.” It also calls on the union
to “conduct research into higher education institutions’ contacts, relations,
investment and commercial relationships that may be implicated in violating
Palestinian human rights as stated by the BDS movement.”
The motion was
proposed by Emily Cousens, a politics, philosophy and economics student at
Wadham College. It was originally seconded by Wolfson College student Yulin
Zhang, however he pulled out “after reflecting on the issue and not being
comfortable with it.”
“I’m surprised that a motion to support a movement
that was described by the president of Harvard University as anti-Semitic is
even under discussion at the union,” Henry Watson from Magdalen College told The
Jerusalem Post on Monday.
“My fellow students at Magdalen College were
repulsed at the idea of being associated with the BDS movement, especially
considering past racist statements and Nazi allusions made by its founder, Omar
Barghouti. We voted almost unanimously against any involvement with a movement
that would apply a double standard to Israel.”
The controversial motion
comes less than a week after Oxford University was in the spotlight after MP
George Galloway walked out of a debate with Israeli student Eylon Aslan-Levy
claiming he was “misled” by the organizer as he does not debate with or
On Monday, the organizer of the event, Mahmood Naji,
a medical student at Christ Church, showed from the email correspondence a
number of weeks ago with Galloway’s secretary that it was obvious that
Aslan-Levy was an Israeli.
“It is strange that someone who takes such a
hard-line view on debating Israelis should omit to ask whether or not his
Jewish, pro-Israeli opponent, who has debated in Israel, is in fact Israeli,”
Naji said in an open letter to Galloway on the Huffington Post.
secretary did not go on to ask me about Eylon’s nationality – indeed I did not
know until the debate that he is an Israeli – and even had I known his
nationality, I was not aware of your staunch (and damaging) stance of boycotting
Israeli individuals,” he continued.
“Should I let you know if your
opponent is a vegetarian in case you have a policy of not debating vegetarians?
Am I misleading you if I do not tell you your opponent’s shoe size? Think hard
about the absurdity of your position. In none of the previous debates I had
organized did it even occur to me to inform the debaters of their opponents’
nationalities. This particular debate was no different.”
Naji said he had
been looking forward to seeing the anti-Israel MP put forward the case for the
“Instead I was left humiliated in front of a room
full of people who had waited an hour and a half for your arrival, only to be
subsequently accused of being deceptive and misleading. Does that seem fair to
you, Mr. Galloway?” he asked.
In response, Galloway said on his Facebook
page that for him a boycott includes individuals or organizations in Israel who
support “the existence of the racist apartheid creed of
“Israelis who are outside of and against the system of Zionism
are comrades of mine – like Ilan Pappe. My opponent at Oxford did not meet this
test. To compare Israeli Zionism to ‘vegetarianism’ is like a doctor not knowing
the difference between a pimple and a tumor. Apartheid Israel is a cancer at the
heart of the Middle East. Only its replacement by a binational democratic state
from the Jordan River to the sea will cure this. That is what I am fighting
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