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British student body reaffirms support for BDS, prompting Israeli anger

The National Union of Students (NUS) has reaffirmed its support for the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, in a meeting of its National Executive Council (NEC) on Tuesday.

The NEC, made up of elected NUS representatives, voted 19-14 (with 1 abstention) in favour of a pro-BDS amendment to a motion condemning Israel for its actions the Occupied Palestinian Territories, which itself was adopted by 19-12 (and 3 abstentions).

The amendment calls for a boycott of companies complicit in Israel’s colonial occupation, as well as “to affiliate to the BDS movement.” Last August, the NEC voted to boycott companies complicit in Israeli human rights abuses. Support for BDS motions on campuses across the UK has continued to rise in recent years.

The NUS’ support for BDS prompted an angry response from the Israeli government, with a Foreign Ministry spokesperson suggesting that British students should “study a little history and understand that the distance is not that great between verbal hatred and stereotypes and horrible crimes.”

The NEC also unanimously passed an emergency motion “declaring solidarity with Jewish students against anti-Jewish protests, such as the one planned in Golders Green next month.”

The Israeli embassy in London, meanwhile, vowed to continue its efforts to undermine initiatives by what it called “an extreme vocal minority”, describing the vote as an “extremist decision, made in a limited forum” without “any practical impact.”

Yesh Atid chair, MK Yair Lapid, also weighed in, declaring that he would “raise the issue with British government officials and key opinion leaders”, and said that his party “sees the battle against the attempts to impose a boycott of Israel as its primary mission in the international arena.” The report on the vote opened the main news show on Israel’s Channel Two.

In Britain, the Union of Jewish Students condemned the policy, accusing the NEC of “playing at politics”, and suggesting that the “actions and languages” of BDS supporters “regularly prove themselves as toxic forces on our campus and in our society.” In Tel Aviv, the deputy UK ambassador to Israel affirmed that the British government “vehemently opposes calls to boycott Israel.”

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