OPINION: Boycott vote before Pesach will block Jewish students speaking

OPINION: Boycott vote before Pesach will block Jewish students speaking

Emma Dubin
Emma Dubin

By Emma Dubin, Edinburgh Jewish Society President 

This Thursday, at the student council for Edinburgh University, students will vote on the EUSA (Edinburgh University Student Association) for a BDS motion (Boycotts Divestments and sanctions against Israel).

This motion asks for EUSA to implement a boycott, divest, and sanction policy against Israel. 

This is a valid conversation for a university to have.

The timing, however, is deeply disturbing to me.

This Thursday is also the night before Passover.

That means that many Jewish students who care about the issue (including all of us on the Jewish Society committee) will be away, and others who remain in Edinburgh will be attending to religious obligations and still unable to attend the student council meeting.

The timing means that Jewish voices won’t be heard, and that is something that is absolutely unacceptable. 

This motion brings up a valid conversation for a university campus. The Israeli/Palestinian conflict is worth talking about: I as president of JSoc want a campus on which people can debate, challenge each other’s beliefs, and push to make the world a better place.

I believe that this is a conversation we should be having—and I believe that “we” also includes our Jewish students. I can’t claim to know how all Jewish students feel about a BDS motion against Israel (there is certainly no consensus on how Jews, both on and off campus, feel about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict), but I know that they deserve to be included in the conversation. 

I’ve spoken with EUSA representatives, including sabbatical officers, and they have explained that procedurally, it’s impossible for sabbatical officers or EUSA as an entity to change an item on the student council agenda. Rather, any change must come from the people who submitted the motion. In this case, the motion was submitted by the Black & Minority Ethnic (BME) liberation group, and specifically, Faatima Osman. 

Eve Livingston also shared with me that she has pulled together an amendment to the motion which would add mandates that EUSA work proactively with the Chaplaincy and JSoc on anti-Semitism that can arise as a by-product of anti-Israeli sentiment. I appreciate Eve’s willingness to work constructively on this issue, but this isn’t enough. We can’t have a conversation about anti-Semitism without any Jews in the room.

So today I met with Eve and Faatima to ask Faatima if she and the BME group would consider pushing back voting on the motion. She said that this would be impossible.

Because this Thursday is the last student council meeting of the academic year, a delay would push the question out until September. I proposed a compromise: that we hold an extraordinary student council meeting in three or four weeks’ time, in which we can have a more complete debate that includes Jewish students.

This would be difficult but still possible under EUSA regulations, but Faatima was very much against the idea. Given that only the motion’s proposers can remove it from the agenda, as of now, the motion will be voted on at Thursday’s student council meeting.

Let me be clear: For students to criticise Israeli policy is absolutely not anti-Semitic.

I do not think that the timing of the motion was an intentional decision designed to keep Jewish students from voting.

But for a student group—and especially a group that purports to represent ethnic minorities, which should include Jews—to defend a framework in which Jewish voices cannot be heard, that is not fair. 

Now that the issue has been raised, it is unconscionable that SJP, the BME Liberation group, and Faatima will not change the date. 

So here’s what I’m asking students:

Regardless of how you feel about the motion, please realise that Jewish students should be a part of this discussion.

Please vote: Not on the motion itself, but to abstain.

We want this conversation to continue—we just want to be a part of it too. 

If you want to contribute to the Jewish News student section, contact jackm@thejngroup.com

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