Credit - Scott Gunn

Motion to align EUSA with BDS movement passed by Student Council

A motion to align Edinburgh University Students Association (EUSA) with the Boycott, Divestment and Sanction (BDS) movement was passed at Student Council yesterday, EUSA has announced, creating a mandate for the Association to cut ties with an array of Israeli products, companies, and institutions in protest of the occupation of Palestine.

The motion, passed by student body attendees with 249 votes for, 153 votes against, and 22 abstentions, would require EUSA to adopt the main provisions of BDS and ally itself with the broader international campaign. It mandates the Students Association eliminate from its venues any products made by companies with operations in the occupied territories, and “target products, companies and institutions” it says are implicated in the violation of Palestinian rights.

It also requires EUSA to give public support to other branches of the campaign, such as the academic boycott against Israeli higher learning institutions, and to put a public statement on its website announcing its support. EUSA would additionally be tasked with lobbying the University of Edinburgh itself to commit to the campaign.

Proposed by the EUSA Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) liberation group and the Edinburgh branch of Students for Justice in Palestine SJP, the motion attracted heated opinion on both sides, and was fiercely contested by members of the Edinburgh University Jewish Society. SJP had mobilised a strong force to attend the council meeting, and the Jewish Society and Jewish Chaplaincy brought voters of their own, making turnout to the council higher than it has been all year.

Proponents said that the motion was a peaceful means to target institutions complicit in human rights abuses in the West Bank.  Opponents said the passing the motion would alienate students from Israel and lead to anti-Semitism on campus.

Various speeches made before the final vote on Thursday captured the passions held by those for and against.

Arguing for the motion, the president of the Edinburgh branch of Students for Justice in Palestine said students had a moral imperative to support Palestinian rights and that the motion would ensure that.

“It’s critical that we as citizens of the West to do what we can to help Palestinians,” he told the audience.  He maintained the motion was focused on ending the occupation, restoring human rights and securing a right of return for Palestinians displaced during the creation of the Israeli state.

The speaker, a Palestinian student who requested anonymity due to safety concerns back home, drew on personal experiences to underscore the motion’s importance.

“My home in Palestine is full of illegal settlements,” he told the audience, adding that his family and fellow village members were forced into inhuman working conditions as a result of Israeli encroachment. “To justify these acts is to justify the acts of all other oppressive regimes throughout history.”

But opponents of the motion said that its passage would negatively impact Jewish students and students from Israel.  In a speech against, Brianna Sommer, president of the Edinburgh Jewish Society, said that the effects of the motion would create deep divisions on campus.

“I stand against boycotting and the perpetual marginalisation, alienation, and hostility that ensues from this motion,” Sommer said. “I will not let the students that I represent suffer from deep divisions on campus that have presented themselves elsewhere.”

Sommer spoke passionately about a harsh climate already faced on campus by Jewish students and said the motion would exacerbate it.

“It is undeniable that there has been a rise in anti-Semitism on UK campuses,” she said. “Although the proposers of this motion may have the best intentions, BDS creates an atmosphere that can foster anti-Semitism, because as I’ve said, it is always Jewish students who are left to face the backlash.”

With its passage at Student Council, the motion now heads into a complex process that will see parts of it implemented immediately, such as the public statements from EUSA, and others put to approval in the final Trustee meeting on May 25, a source within EUSA told The Student.

Reporting contributed by Olivia R. Nolan.

This is a developing news story. More to follow.

Image: Scott Gunn

 

 

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13 Responses

Leave a Reply
  1. Maryam Saade
    Apr 01, 2016 - 06:32 PM

    Its not the Jewish Society it is the Israeli engagement society-please change accordingly!

    Reply
    • Jason
      Apr 01, 2016 - 06:54 PM

      The President of the Jewish Society was the first speaker against the motion, and was a large part of the movement against the motion. So it’s accurate. IES were obviously also involved

      Reply
  2. Chasser
    Apr 01, 2016 - 07:04 PM

    Excellent news! surely whatever race or religeon a person is they should oppose extreme right wing behavior, whether theyre the Tories in Britain, America or Israel… yada yada yada….
    BDS is a wonderfull and wholesome process, keep going ….x

    Reply
    • BoGaCan
      Apr 02, 2016 - 10:03 PM

      Will EUSA pass motions to support a boycott of Russia for occupying Ukrainian territory? Morocco, for the occupation of the Western Sahara; China for occupying Tibet, or Turkey for occupying Northern Cyprus?
      Was this motion about human rights, or simply an Israel bashing plot disguised as humanist?

      Reply
    • Lynne Marton
      Apr 05, 2016 - 08:47 AM

      BDS is not a “human rights group” – they are using the so-called “palestinians” as an excuse to demonise, delegitimise and destroy Israel. Israel is the ONLY democratic country in the Middle East where people of all faiths are free the worship, Israeli-Arab citizens can vote, get a first class education, hold positions in the gov’t – which they do, are professors, doctors, lawyers and serve in the Israeli army in the highest positions. Can you find any Jews or any other religion with those benefits in even one Arab country???????
      BDS doesn’t care about anything else besides destroying Israel. Ask them what they are doing about all the human rights abuses in all the Arab moslem countries??? Women are of less value than a goat. What about the FGM????? That is what they do to torture women – you like that??? They are not allowed to do anything except serve the man – in the home. Not allowed to be educated, to work or even to go out anywhere. They have no freedoms at all. Actually, no one in those countries has any real freedom – islam doesn’t allow it.
      So I would think again – very carefully – before you say you are in favour of BDS – it isn’t the do-good group you have been thinking it is.

      Reply
      • sheldon Wolf
        Apr 05, 2016 - 01:38 PM

        The BDS is a modern day form of anti-Semitism that is acceptable on college campuses and elsewhere. It’s driven by Arabs who have grown up hating the Jews more than they love their own children. It’s not about helping Palestinians, it’s about trying to hurt Israel. So far the BDS has had zero effect on the Israeli economy which is thriving. Israel is a democratic beacon of light in a dark region of the world which is a cesspool of hatred.

        Reply
  3. GymMom
    Apr 02, 2016 - 10:02 PM

    It is truly disheartening to see that students at one of the world’s most elite colleges could be so thoroughly hoodwinked by Anti-Israel propaganda.

    Israel is not perfect, but it is a liberal democracy with a great human rights record, surrounded by dictatorships that actively promote its destruction.

    The “Palestinian” Arabs have turned down one opportunity after another to have a state of their own, on land that rightfully belongs to Israel, because Israel prefers peace to insisting on its full property rights.

    And yet these well-meaning but deluded college students blame the side which has repeatedly sacrificed its own interests for peace, while giving a free pass to the side that refuses to even negotiate, but instead insists on taking ALL of the Jewish homeland away from the Jews.

    Reply
  4. ROGLO
    Apr 04, 2016 - 04:05 PM

    Why is a student union trying to solve the worlds problems? Surely they should be focusing on academic and welfare issues for Edinburgh students.

    Reply

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