From Monday 9th to Friday 13th, the Guild will be holding a preferendum on whether it should boycott Israeli products, support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, and lobby the University to also boycott Israel. Details of the motion can be found here when you log on to the Guild Website.
BDS is an organisation which aims to hold Israel to account for its human rights abuses of Palestinians through economic pressure. Its main goals are to end Israel’s occupation of Palestine, promote the full equal rights of Palestinians and defend the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their home.
This is a very controversial topic, and we asked students who are aware of the issues around it to voice their opinion.
Gethin Watkins, a Sociology student, supports the motion: “I believe that the BDS movement is a non-violent form of protest against Palestinian suffering. We (LGoS) should say yes to BDS because it demonstrates solidarity with multiple other universities and the international community which will put pressure on Israel to address it’s human rights abuses and end Palestinian inequality.”
Medicine student Natasha Miller disagrees: “After BDS has gone through the university’s democratic process three times already (and failed each time) it is clear that students here at Liverpool do not agree that BDS is a viable solution to the Israel/Palestine conflict.
It was seen as far too extreme and divisive, and concerns were raised over whether the negative effects on campus would outweigh any effect on the Middle-East. It has no place at our university.”
Jamie Nagioff, a student of Maths and Business, agrees with Natasha: “The Israel/Palestine conflict is not as clear cut as this motion tries to make out. It is an extremely complex and sensitive issue, with both sides having their faults. However, BDS fails to recognise this by heaping all of the blame on one side. Instead of pointing fingers, we should be trying to promote peace and work together on coexistence projects. We should be promoting peace through initiatives such as this cafe that encourages Arabs to spend time with Jews, rather than supporting a policy that pushes people apart”.
Sociology and Social Policy student, Mollie Hughes, defends the boycott: “I’m voting for the guild to adopt the BDS motion because I do not want to be complicit in Israel’s systematic discrimination of the Palestinian population. Despite decades of military occupation, ethnic cleansing and a general refusal to treat Palestinians as human beings, Israel is yet to be held accountable for their actions. This is even after countless condemnations by international bodies such as the UN and human rights groups such as Amnesty International.
The NUS voted last year in favour of backing the boycott and so have many universities in the UK – Exeter, Sussex and Goldsmiths, among many more. Desmond Tutu has spoken of the similarities in experience between life in apartheid South Africa and life in occupied Palestine. He once said that ‘If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor, so make sure you vote YES in the upcoming preferendum, if you no longer want our university to side with Israel.”
Also drawing on the comparison with South African apartheid, History student Tajah Hamilton supports the motion:”In the 70’s the University suspended students for protesting against its involvement with South Africa and Rhodesia. It keeps managing to support violent regimes, and using the excuse of ‘impartiality’ is not enough. Sometimes you have to take a stand. It took them long enough with [South African] apartheid, I hoped they would’ve learned from their mistakes.”
Business Studies student Gemma Foxler disagrees: “A boycott of Israel is not just a punishment of Israelis. There are many Palestinians living in Israel who would be negatively affected by this boycott too. If BDS truly cared about the livelihood of the Palestinian people, it would focus more on helping Palestinians, rather than collectively punishing Israelis and Palestinians together.”
Kit Dempsey, a Medicine student, further adds to the defense of the boycott: “We know that the ‘no’ campaign will say we are stifling a two-way dialogue, that we are intimating and dividing students on campus and that we are anti-Semitic. This rhetoric is false, dangerous and deeply offensive. Our campaign is against racism and colonialism and for human rights. For the guild to remain neutral when so many Unions – and the NUS – have adopted BDS motions, would be a clear statement that they side with the oppressor not the oppressed. ‘
Most products the guild sells are not from Israel or Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, passing this motion would not see a huge change to students’ lives, what it would mean is that the guild stands up in support of Palestinian students at the University of Liverpool and more widely.”
On the format of the vote, she also feels that the third option (the Guild Summit decision) “is misleading, framing itself as a middle ground and portraying the Israelis and Palestinians on an equal footing of power. We have spoken with the Guild about what this option would actually mean and they agreed it was ‘woolly’, and were not able to suggest in reality what it would mean.” She urges voters not to take the third option as a genuine action of support for Palestine.
Whatever your opinion on this preferendum, make sure to vote! It will need 600 votes from the student body to be validated. You will be able to vote either online or at a polling station at the Guild.