Boycott, divestment and sanctions: how will you vote on tomorrow’s controversial motion?

TOMORROW King’s students (that’s you) will be allowed to vote on whether KCLSU should pressure King’s to divest from Israel.

Some say the motion is crucial to working towards ending the “illegal occupation of Palestine”. Meanwhile, others say it will alienate Israeli students and that non student-related political campaigns aren’t what a students’ union should be focusing on.

Here we present two opposing views from King’s students. Proxy voting ends at 6pm today, and voting in person begins at the Student General Meeting tomorrow at 6pm, Edmond J Safra theatre, Strand.

The argument against BDS

By Hannah Brady

“KCLSU officially endorses the 2005 Palestinian call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions of Israel until it abides by international law and ends it illegal occupation of Palestine.”

The most important outcome of any initiative in the Middle East is to procure a peace settlement enabling both Palestinian and Israeli self-determination.

I honestly cannot see a way in which the proposed BDS motion supports or provides a framework for this. Instead of promoting peace – both in the region and between groups on campus – it only wishes to punish Israel and its supporters for past and current failings.

Furthermore, BDS motions like this frequently alienate many from the Palestinian cause, and push Israelis into voting for right-wing governments that don’t prioritise Palestinian rights. The motion is thus self-defeating in purpose.

Within the view of the motion, there is no room for debate or compromise: it presents Israeli and Palestinian autonomy as mutually exclusive. This is demonstrated even in requests for KCLAP to be allocated funding, without any provision being suggested for opposing societies.

Here, the motion wrongly implies that BDS is the only way to support Palestinian rights. In contrast, offering a varied and nuanced education on campus about Israel and Palestine is better for all parties, and would contribute to a much better campus environment.

Voting NO to BDS at KCLSU means that you are willing to get to grips with the conflict in a way that isn’t black or white. Voting NO is a vote for encouraging debate, not stifling it. Voting NO is for supporting a fair and peaceful settlement that includes a tangible future for Israel AND Palestine – not either/or. Please don’t hesitate – just vote NO.

The argument for BDS

By Alberto Torres

BDS is more of a human rights based movement rather than a political movement. Historically, boycott movements have been effective, peaceful measures of raising awareness and pressuring governments and institutions towards change on a particular issue.

This ranged from the Montgomery Bus Boycott in Alabama during the Civil Rights Movement to Gandhi’s boycott against the British, and the successful international Boycott Movement against apartheid South Africa in the 1980s. Contrary to opposing claims, BDS is not an attack on Jewish people.

BDS is rather about placing pressure on a country which is deemed to be breaching international law. The suggestion that the BDS represents an attack on Israeli people is dangerously homogenising, making the assumption that all Israelis support the actions of the state of Israel. However, to question the right of a state to exist at the expense of an entire group of people is not ‘demonisation’, nor is it ‘anti-semitic’. It is an absolutely valid question that should be asked.

Some pro-Israel advocates try to set limits when it comes to discussing Israel, and accusing someone of ‘demonising’ Israel can be a very effective tactic. For Israel to be a Jewish-only state, the Palestinians must accept continued dispossession and second-class status in their own country, which is not a recipe for lasting peace for either.

In sum, I think the vast majority of pro-Palestine supporters’ consensus is the following: BDS is pro-Palestine rather than anti-Israel. Make your voice heard for human rights this Tuesday. Say YES to BDS.

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