THE KING’S College Student Union was last night accused of a “hateful and divisive” move after backing a BDS motion during a session when chants of “from the river to the sea” were heard.
The decision by 348 votes to 252 came on Tuesday night as Britain’s Universities Minister was in Israel stressing the Government’s opposition to boycotts and urging increased cooperation.
The motion – which labelled boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) “an effective tactic” – resolves to carry out research into King’s College “investments, partnerships and contracted companies that may be implicated in violating Palestinian human rights”.
It further commits to pressure the university to “divest from Israel and from companies directly or indirectly supporting the Israeli occupation” and to have a plaque in student centres acknowledging the union’s support for boycotts “as was done when KCLSU showed solidarity… against apartheid South Africa”.
While the university itself moved to stress its constitutional separation from the union and opposition to boycotts of academic institutions, the Board of Deputies condemned the vote and the “shameful scenes” that surrounded it.
“When BDS supporters chanted ‘from the river to the sea’ they sent a message of hate to Israel and once again demonstrated that the true agenda of BDS is not to influence Israel but to destroy it,” said Board Vice President Jonathan Arkush.
“They succeeded in shaming their fine university and bringing it into disrepute. “The motion was opposed by the Student Union president and was immediately disavowed by the academic leadership of King’s College London, who will now have to live with the consequences of such a hateful and divisive vote.”
Hannah Brady of King’s Jewish Society, said Tuesday night’s events “were proof of how discrimination faced by Jewish students can be normalised in order for a few to create a false moral high ground for themselves”.
She added: “To be met by chants of “’From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free’, when expressing our lament for the passing of such a poorly-written and misconceived motion only consolidates the considerable damage done to student welfare on campus.”
Hailing the “united and courageous campaign” of Jewish students to oppose the motion, a UJS spokesperson said: “This wasn’t about the result, it was about the debate. Many allies, including the SU president, stood up against this bigoted and divisive agenda.
“It is shameful that elected representatives feel it is within their remit to single out students and call shame on them. The UJS is working with the union and university to ensure the well-being and safety of all Jewish students remains a top priority, and that no boycott of Israeli goods or persons will be instigated.”
During a meeting with leaders of UK and Israeli academia at Hebrew University a day earlier, Universities Minister David Willetts addressed Israeli perceptions that he said contributed to “a decline in the number of Israeli students studying in Britain.
“There are not boycotts of Israeli academics, or Israeli students, or British-Israel academic exchanges. Those would be completely wrong, and there is no [UK] university that is boycotting Israel,” he said.
“When I try to make sense of the decline of numbers of Israeli students coming to study in Britain, I worry that part of it is the perception in Israel that Britain is an unfriendly or hostile place.
“And what we know from the measures that are taken is that, fortunately, Britain is one of the European countries that scores best on having very, very low anti-Semitism.
“Any individual example of anti-Semitism is unacceptable, but we pride ourselves on being an open and tolerant society.” He urged “closer research links and academic exchanges, which will also lead to student exchanges”.