The NUS’ National Executive Council voted on Tuesday to approve a boycott of Israel by 19 votes for, 12 against, with three abstentions, and condemned its actions in the West Bank and Gaza.
A statement from the Union of Jewish Students said boycott motions ostracise Jewish and Israeli students on campus that identify with Israel. It reads: “J-Socs have been banned because they’re incompatible with BDS [Boycott Divestment Sanctions movement] policies; Israeli individuals and academics have been blocked from delivering lectures on nothing to do with Israel or Palestine. “Those in support of the BDS movement want the public to believe they don’t target individuals. Their actions and language regularly prove themselves as toxic forces on our campus and in our society.”
Board of Deputies president Jonathan Arkush expressed his regret at the news. “We are deeply disappointed that the NUS has taken this divisive step,” he said. “Boycotts run counter to the process of constructive dialogue. It is inconceivable to us that through this action the NUS will serve the prospects for peace in the Middle East or the cohesion of UK’s diverse student body. We commend the UJS for its proactive engagement.”
Labour MP Wes Streeting, a former national president of the NUS, said: “I’m deeply disappointed by NUS’ stance – one that was firmly rejected by previous generations of students who rightly wanted to build bridges, not boycotts.
“Rather than boycotting Israel, we should all be working with progressive voices who want to see a return to the negotiating table and a two-state solution sooner rather than later.”
Joseph Stoll, UK campus director for StandWithUs UK strongly condemned NUS for passing a “one-sided motion to boycott Israeli companies, following lobbying by BDS activists”.
He called it “unfortunate” that the student body embraced the “manipulative tactics of BDS,” adding: “While it masquerades as a human rights movement that seeks a better life for Palestinians, BDS’ true goal is the elimination of Israel and the end of Jewish self-determination.”
Meanwhile, Yair Lapid, the leader of Israeli party Yesh Atid, called on the British government to condemn the move which, he said, “only serves to stir up hatred and which undermines any hope for diplomatic progress”.
He added: “The decision by the NUS to join the BDS movement is hypocritical and one sided; it fails to even mention terrorism and the firing of rockets against Israel. How can an organisation that refuses to condemn the brutal terrorists of ISIS but calls for a boycott of Israel be taken seriously?”