‘Supporters claim BDS opened dialogue, but instead it has spawned hatred and animosity’

L-R: Sebastiaan Debrouwere, Anthony Shaw. Photo credit: Dulcie Lee / Roar! News

By Darren Cohen, Hannah Brady and Rivka Freund

ON Tuesday night, KCLSU voted to boycott a country. That country was Israel. The alleged cause: freedom and justice for the oppressed Palestinian people.

We write as students who have visited both Israel and the Palestinian territories, who truly desire an end to this conflict, who deeply care about both Israeli and Palestinian human rights and want a better future for all the inhabitants of the region.

This future can never be realized through a boycott.

A boycott of a country is a failure to recognise it, to deem it beyond the pale and outside of the community of nations. Israel is by no means a perfect country; like every democracy, it has its flaws and complexities.

‘Evil human-rights hating Zionists’

The occupation of the West Bank should end. But it should end through negotiation and dialogue, two things that this motion is utterly devoid of. It is this type of nuance that so many BDS supporters lack and so many of its supporters fail to appreciate.

BDS supporters paint everything black and white: they promote that the evil, human-rights hating Zionists should be placed in binary opposition to the can do no wrong, saintly and ultimately passive Palestinians.

They ignore the rejectionism of the Palestinian leadership, the incitement against Israelis and Jews that continues to this day and the violent terrorism that devastated so many Israeli communities, both Jewish and non-Jewish.

The proponents of the motion insist that their campaign was merely about human rights. But what has it actually done apart from construct a divisive environment both on social media and on campus?

‘Will not bring about lasting peace’

Instead of facilitating constructive dialogue, it has instigated an atmosphere of discontent and animosity. In no way can the impact of this motion be interpreted as a positive influence on academic discourse and free discussion at our university.

We are thus highly supportive of King’s College London’s reaffirmation of its support for academic cooperation with all countries. Our College too recognizes that BDS will not bring about an end to suffering and occupation, that it will not help Palestinian human rights, and that it most certainly will not bring about lasting peace.

The relationship between Britain and Israel is an important one, and is one that is to be treasured during this time of diplomatic progress in the peace process against a background of instability elsewhere in the Middle East.

‘Not 1980s South Africa’

Astonishingly, the proponents of the motion claim it has opened a dialogue. By promoting a boycott, in reality it has achieved the very antithesis. It has spawned hatred and animosity, causing the worst elements of student politics to infiltrate our campus.

This is not South Africa in the 1980s, and a motion seeking to equivocate the two is based on a reductive and harmful misconception.  This conflict is far more complex than that abhorrent period in human history.

It is a conflict between two very legitimate national claims to the same piece of land.

The proponents of this motion try to moralise to us by declaring that this is simply about human rights. It is pro-Palestinian but not anti-Israel, they tell us. As if we, mostly Jewish students, don’t know anything about human rights.

‘We will not be silent’

To those who shouted “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free”, we question the sincerity of your call for human rights while you chant Hamas’s call for a genocide of Jews in their homeland.

We will not stand for this contradiction, and we will not be silent in the face of such behaviour.

King’s College London has up until now been a beacon of academic freedom and was founded to provide refuge from religious persecution.  Let us not compromise our values now.

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