Oxford University (the oldest University in the English speaking world) students today voted on whether to join the Boycott, Divest, and Sanction (BDS) movement. The motion failed by a vote of 69-10.
In other diaries on this site, the movement has been described as "a non-violent initiative targeting Israel's suppression of basic political rights for Palestinians, particularly those occupied in the West Bank". Oxford students saw the movement in a different light:
“Oxford's students have made it absolutely clear that applying double standards to Israel is wholly unacceptable,” Henry Watson from Magdalen College said. “Oxford's Student Union emphatically refused to endorse a boycott of the only liberal democracy in the Middle East: it decisively repudiated the BDS movement ..., by a margin of seven-to-one.It appears that preparations for the vote had been taking place for some time:
Voting was due to occur at the 5th week OUSU meeting. However, an amendment was suggested and passed, claiming that the motion’s “controversial” nature meant that Common Rooms needed more time to debate the issue. The original motion will now be debated and voted on in the 7th week OUSU meeting... and apparently moved forward despite some intrigue:
The motion was proposed by Emily Cousens of Wadham and originally seconded by Yulin Zhang of Wolfson College. However, in emails to OUSU reps, OUSU president David Townsend stated that the seconder dropped out after “reflecting on the issue and not being comfortable with it.” He also acknowledged the “potentially controversial” nature of the motion.But in the end, the vote took place and the results were overwhelming.
“It’s encouraging to see that this vote reflects a student body who are willing to discuss the complexities that exist within Israel and do not see boycotting it as a viable option or avenue to discuss the conflict,” UJS campaigns director Judith Flacks said.
Eylon Aslan-Levy, whom MP George Galloway refused to debate with last week on account of him being Israeli, said: “Tonight Oxford students showed that their commitment to intellectual freedom is unshakeable. In rejecting calls for a boycott against Israel, we demonstrated resoundingly that we want Oxford to continue to cooperate with Israeli academics, trade with Israeli businesses and -yes- debate with Israeli debating societies.
“I hope that other British universities will follow Oxford's lead in standing up against divisive attempts to hinder academic cooperation and progress,” he added.
Henry Watson, a third-year Philosophy, Politics and Economics student at Magdalen College, said that the motion’s sponsors had initially presented their agenda as “pro-peace, while Israel was against peace, and that this would try and get peace through placing economic pressure on Israel.”
As the motion was discussed by the common rooms, he said, students found out that the motion would also have promoted an academic boycott, (and) that the BDS movement “was against the two-state solution” ...