University of Liverpool Friends of Palestine statement:

“Following years of campaigning for a student wide vote on whether Liverpool Guild of Students should support the Palestinian-led BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) movement, there has been a landslide victory in favour of yes, and the Guild of Students has now adopted a BDS policy.

“The vote took the form of a ‘preferendum’ which is part of the Guild’s new democratic system. Members of University of Liverpool Friends of Palestine (ULFOP) campaigned hard against this preferendum taking place, as it meant that the odds were against them; the ballot had one option to pass the motion and two options not to pass the motion. If students didn’t rank all of these options, then their one chosen option was given less weight. ULFOP have written to the electoral reform society, despite this result, for further advice around their concerns that the voting system used was entirely inappropriate for the motion that had been submitted. Katerina, a BioMed student who voted, said that “The entire system was incredibly confusing; I just don’t understand why we couldn’t have a yes or no vote. That would be fair”.

“Further obstacles were faced by students trying to campaign for justice for Palestinians on campus, such as being forced to re-do a petition of 1% of the student body needed for the vote to happen, poor advertising by the Guild crucial for student awareness about the vote, and a ban on a planned ‘die-in’ action during the week of the vote, on the grounds that this would trigger an emotional rather than intellectual response from students. These obstacles are not new; last year, when journalist and author Ben White came to speak on campus, the Guild – in response to a complaint from a student – called PREVENT about the event and placed restrictions on who could attend. Karim, a member of ULFOP, was involved in the organisation of this event. He said “I was horrified when I learned that my own student officers had called PREVENT on me. These are people who I’d been working with for years, and to have them call an anti-terrorism wing of the police over a student event was shocking.” Despite these challenges, and in particular the weighting of the vote, the scale of the victory for BDS clearly shows that a large majority of the student body is, or has been made, aware of Israel’s apartheid regime and oppression of the Palestinians, and is prepared to make a stand against it. Kitty, a member of ULFOP, highlighted this point.

She says “a turnout of over 1000 was unprecedented and the huge number of students that voted yes to adopt the BDS motion sends a clear message to the Union, University and beyond that we do not want to attend an institution that is complicit is Israel’s endless human rights abuses”. This is supported by Zohra, another ULFOP member, who feels that “this vote is a genuine reflection of the mood on campus – where students from all faiths and backgrounds believe that the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian people and their territories is unjust, akin to an apartheid system and thus cannot be allowed to continue.” The students from University of Liverpool now officially support the BDS movement and the Union has a mandate to lobby the university to do the same – particularly in reference to their involvement with companies such as BAE Systems that supply arms to Israel. ULFOP also state that they wholeheartedly reject any claims that BDS is divisive on campus, instead recognising that the BDS movement is a non-violent and effective means of applying pressure on the Israeli government and the companies benefitting from the occupation of Palestine.

“In short, this vote was a huge victory for student activism at a time when the student voice is being stifled. Liverpool students have raised their voices and made clear that they do not want their university to invest in military occupation, systemic discrimination and apartheid.”

 

If you have been affected by any of the issues outlined above, or would like to share your perspective – further contributions or questions to The Sphinx are welcomed: contact News Editor Natasha Kondrashova at news@liverpoolstudentmedia.com or via Facebook for details.