The National Union of Students recently voted to support the BDS movement, and a University of Southampton SU motion to condemn it was blocked. Is it really something students should get behind?
The BDS calls itself a “campaign of boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel until it complies with International Law and Palestinian rights”.
Extremely disappointed that NUS has voted in favour of BDS. BDS will not, and never will, achieve solidarity
— Josh Battat ()
Southampton Student Union President David Mendoza-Wolfson unsuccessfully attempted to pass a motion condemning the movement at Monday’s Union Council meeting. While his methods of attempting to legislate to this end have , the notion itself is a valid one.
The movement has been heavily criticised by those on both sides of the Israel-Palestine debate. The President of the Palestinian Authority himself, Mahmoud Abbas, has openly criticised it. Mudar Zahran, a Jordanian-Palestinian who is the leader of the Jordanian Opposition Coalition, calls it ‘dangerous’ and ‘reckless.
It does not appear to be a movement of peace. It is widely believed that the only feasible solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict is the creation of a two-state solution, but the BDS movement opposes this. It merely seems to encourage division, tension and conflict.
Antisemitism is like a virus, it mutates and infects everything it touches. It's mutated into BDS and NUS is infected.
— Joe Vinson ()
Some students at KCL were reduced to tears when their union voted to support the movement, feeling demonised by their elected representatives. Samuel Steinbock, a student at KCL, said that endorsing such a movement tells Israeli students that they are ‘not welcome’.
This is precisely the problem. Are all Israeli students, or Jewish students with links to the state of Israel, supposed to feel guilty for the actions of their country’s government? Not all Israelis support the policies of their government (Benjamin Netanyahu’s centre-right Likud party only gained 23% of the public vote at the recent election).
The notion is as ridiculous as asking all Muslim students to apologise for isolated terrorist incidents carried out by IS militants.
The BDS movement has been accused of encouraging anti-semitism on campuses. The Union of Jewish Students said “Those in support of the BDS movement want the public to believe they don’t target individuals. Their actions and language regularly prove themselves as toxic forces on our campuses and in our society”.
Universities UK statement regarding academic boycotts and academic freedom – http://t.co/bDrKpWYWeh
— Universities UK ()
It seems odd that the movement solely targets the Jewish state for not recognising the legal rights of Palestinians, who are subjected to unfair treatment in virtually all Middle-Eastern countries: Jordan bans Palestinians from holding many government jobs despite the fact that they form a majority in the country, Lebanon bans them from over 20 professions.
Add to this the enormous numbers of civilian casualties racked up by Saudi Arabia’s bombing of Yemen and Syria. It is clear that Israel isn’t the only nation at fault. Surely it would be more just and beneficial to place more emphasis on all of these rights abuses, not simply on the actions of Israel.
Student bodies should distance themselves from counterproductive movements such as that of the BDS. Universities should be platforms for reasoned, balanced debates. By enabling a dialogue to be opened between those on the Israeli and Palestinian sides of the conflict, we stand a much better chance of creating a long-term peace than anything a boycott would achieve.
What do you think of the NUS Israel boycott? Let us know in the comments.