NUS boycott decision a dangerous step that makes dialogue even harder

To draw parallels on apartheid-era South Africa, when Israeli Arabs sit on the Supreme Court, represent Israel in its parliament, and have full and equal rights is to misrepresent history.

June 4, 2015 22:22
2 minute read.

BDS logo. (photo credit: BDS)


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On Wednesday, the national executive council of Britain’s National Union of Students amended a Justice for Palestine motion condemning Israel for its activities in Gaza and the West Bank and calling for a widespread implementation of the Boycott Divestment Sanctions movement.

The vote, held as a secret ballot, was an entirely inappropriate response to an extremely complex issue. There has been virtually no consideration of the effects this has on Jewish students, and the many students of other faiths and no faiths alike who seek to express their support and admiration for the state of Israel on campus, free from fear and intimidation.

As a past Masa participant, I was taken to the West Bank and saw firsthand the effects the BDS movement has on undermining cooperation and marginalizing not just Israelis, but the many Palestinian workers who rely on Israeli companies for substantially higher wages and improved living conditions.

Rather than taking positive steps toward a peaceful solution, this motion is another backward, divisive step that serves to undermine the work being done to promote moderate voices on both sides of the conflict. Masquerading itself as a motion that promotes Palestinian human rights, it actually shuns debate and makes dialogue on campus still more difficult.

This is especially true as Jewish societies (Jsocs) face an uphill struggle in organizing Israel-related events on campus. Israeli academics, expressing no political affiliation, are frequently banned from speaking on campus while radical preachers roam freely, inciting hate and anti-Semitism on campus.

Masa enabled me to see Israel for what it is: a flourishing democracy amid an unstable Middle East imploding into chaos. And like any democracy, Israel has its many problems; indeed Israelis know them all too well.

But to draw parallels on apartheid-era South Africa, when Israeli Arabs sit on the Supreme Court, represent Israel in its parliament, and have full and equal rights is to misrepresent history, and is frankly offensive.

With Masa’s support, Jewish societies across campuses are leading the fight to combat unjustified motions and the effects they have on the wider student body. Together we are sharing the good that Israel contributes to the world, and tackling the bad through open and honest conversation in order to build a better Israel. While this motion is disturbing, Masa and students supportive of Israel will only redouble their efforts to spread a positive message to a complex issue.

The writer is a past Masa participant and now reads philosophy at UCL, where he is the Jsoc president.

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