Despite the fact that Israel is the one country in the Middle East in which women are not routinely viewed and treated as inferior beings, it was, bizarrely, a prominent campus feminist who posed the above question during a student vote on BDS in one of the University of London's constituents last week (25 March).
Granted, only 2.4 per cent of the 25,000-strong student body voted on the motion. But it was a famous victory for BDS nevertheless, the adoption by the Students' Union at King's College London (KCLSU) of the motion by which the Union resolves
1. To carry out thorough research into KCL investments, partnerships, and contracted companies, including subcontractors, that may be implicated in violating Palestinian human rights as stated by the BDS movement
2. Pressure King’s College London to divest from Israel and from companies directly or indirectly supporting the Israeli occupation and apartheid policies;
3. To have a plaque in all KCLSU student centres acknowledging that KCLSU formally supported the BDS call, as was done when KCLSU showed solidarity to our sisters and brothers in their struggle against Apartheid South Africa with the following text: “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. KCLSU is proud to follow the example of a similar call in the 1980’s, which successfully led to the end of apartheid in South Africa.Moreover, thanks to energetic campaigning by the Israel-baiting side, the vote was decisive: 348 in favour to 252.
To his credit, KCLSU President Sebastiaan Debrouwere advised against the motion:
"I don’t believe that running the risk of alienating a large number of students … I don’t think that’s the right thing to do."(Video here)
By contrast, Vice President Areeb Ullah advocated the motion:
"We don’t live in a bubble, we live in the world, a world ... where injustice happens, a world where oppression happens ..."(Video here. So true, Areeb: China, South Korea, Iran, in fact an entire clutch of Islamic states ... So, how about passing resolutions condemning those real oppressors in this world, eh!!!)
According to one delegate Mr Ullah behaved inappropriately to students who expressed doubts about the wisdom of the motion by "spitefully" shouting at them "Shame On You!":
"Students he supposedly represents."In fact, there have been subsequent calls for his resignation.
Adoption of the motion was greeted with wild scenes that left dejected pro-Israel students feeling overwhelmed: BDSers waving Palestinian flags and chanted "Free, Free Palestine” and “From the River to the Sea, Palestine will be free”:
"There is also little need to point to the tastelessness of the rampant jubilations of proponents of the motion in the face of Jewish and Israeli students reduced to tears. Tonight has seen a student community at King’s College London left bitterly divided and polarised. This is not an achievement to pride itself with. Tonight has likely created wounds that are not going to heal for a while."Despite having voted in favour of the motion, KCLSU's Interfaith Officer observed:
"I’d just like to say that I was appalled by the reaction of some students to the passing of the BDS motion – what happened was both disrespectful and intimidating, and though it was a hard fought and won campaign, there is such a thing as a bad winner."Reacting to the motion, the Israel Society at KCL captured the essence of the BDS Movement when it wrote:
"The BDS campaign, draped as it is in the language of human rights, is a seemingly-innocuous facade for a campaign to delegitimize and ultimately dismantle the state of Israel. The thought that KCL students could support ‘joining’ this movement, as the motion states, is deeply troubling."Similarly, the Board of Deputies of British Jews condemned
'the shameful scenes last night when the Student Union of King’s College London voted to support BDS. Commenting on the vote, Board Vice President Jonathan Arkush said:
“When BDS supporters chanted “from the river to the sea” they sent a message of hate to Israel and once again demonstrated that the true agenda of BDS is not to influence Israel but to destroy it. They succeeded in shaming their fine university and bringing it into disrepute.
The motion was opposed by the Student Union President and was immediately disavowed by the academic leadership of King’s College London, who will now have to live with the consequences of such a hateful and divisive vote.
The Board strongly supports the courageous students from KCL Jewish Society and UJS who ran a strong campaign against the vote and stood up to the atmosphere of intimidation that has become the hallmark of the BDS bullies.”'
"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....
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....
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.
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...."Read more here and here and here and here
Incidentally, British blogger Edgar Davidson has a terrific post about responding to BDS here
Off-topic, but check this out!