The Palestinian-led campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel is continuously winning greater support among students in Britain and Ireland.
During March, referendums endorsing BDS tactics were carried at the University of Dundee in Scotland, the National University of Ireland - Galway and King’s College London.
On 27 March, a referendum was held by the Dundee University Student Association (DUSA) for students to vote on twelve different motions put forward by different societies on campus. The motion submitted by the Action Palestine society was approved with the largest majority of students voting ”yes.” Out of 660 votes cast, 479 (72.6 percent) supported the motion.
DUSA boasts of being the number one student union in Scotland and the result of this poll indicates that students want it to take an ethical stance in opposing injustice in Palestine.
In a similar referendum earlier that month, students at the National University of Ireland - Galway (NUIG) overwhelmingly voted in support of a call for their union to actively support the BDS movement; it was passed by an almost two to one margin, with 1,954 votes in favor, and 1,054 votes against. Students at Kings College London (KCL) have approved a similar divestment call by 348 votes in favor to 252 against.
However, KCL students are currently facing a legal attack by pro-Israel groups, seeking to undermine their democratic decision.
In Dundee, the response from the DUSA executive has been that it couldn’t implement the motion in its entirety, citing restrictions imposed by the UK Education Act of 1994. The association’s response did not explain why it felt restrained by that law.
The Dundee University Action Palestine society hasn’t released a statement yet as both the society’s members and the DUSA executive are awaiting further details of how the BDS motion will be implemented.
Supporting right to education
The motion carried in Dundee calls on the students’ association:
To ensure that products sold by this union were neither grown nor produced within occupied Palestinian territories nor by companies which are complicit in the occupation of Palestinian territories;
To resist, insofar as legislative considerations permit, any action or commercial transaction that gives political or economic support to the State of Israel and corporations directly complicit in its violations of international law;
To endorse the global BDS movement against the State of Israel until it ends the occupation, complies with international law, recognizes the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality and respects the Palestinian right of return as stipulated in the United Nations General Assembly Resolution 194.
Last month, the National Union of Students (Scotland) also voted almost unanimously to affiliate with the Right To Education campaign, run by students at Birzeit University in the occupied West Bank. The motion succeeded with 100 votes in favor and only one vote against; this vote commits NUS Scotland to demanding international action against Israel’s human rights violations.
Israel’s efforts to stifle pro-justice grassroots activism on university campuses seem to be fruitless. More and more students are being exposed to the reality of the situation in Palestine.