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Leading UK Students’ Union Endorses BDS, Fails to Consider Resolution on Hezbollah Ban

avatar by Shiri Moshe

The Wilkins Building at the University College London. Photo: Steve Cadman.

A union representing seven million students in the United Kingdom reaffirmed its commitment to the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel on Thursday, after failing to consider an emergency resolution on the Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah.

The National Executive Council of the National Union of Students passed Motion 103, which decries “70 Years of Injustice” for Palestinians and calls for solidarity with the Palestinian people’s “right to return to their homes, as enshrined in international law.”

The language echoes the demand for a “right of return” for Palestinian refugees of the 1948 Independence War and their five million descendants into Israel, which critics say would effectively transform Israel into a Palestinian-majority state.

The resolution — proposed by Black Students’ Officer Ilyas Nagdee — also accused the Israeli military of murdering “over 60 Palestinian protesters, including women and children,” on May 14, when Hamas-led rioters congregated by the Israel-Gaza barrier in support of the “right of return.”

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Some demonstrators were filmed throwing rocks and firebombs, burning tires, and flying flaming kites into Israeli territory. The Israeli military said others opened fire on its soldiers or attempted to place improvised explosive devices along the border. The IDF released footage of what it said was a thwarted attempt by eight armed Hamas terrorists to cross into Israeli territory.

A top Hamas leader later said that of the day’s fatalities, “50 of them are from Hamas and 12 from the people,” and described these as figures “official.” The Iran-backed terrorist group Palestinian Islamic Jihad separately claimed three other fatalities.

Amendment 103a to the resolution — proposed by Izzy Lenga, NUS vice president of welfare — sought to delete its expression of support for the BDS campaign and instead endorse “the right to self-determination of the Jewish and Palestinian peoples, encouraging efforts to bring about peace and dialogue through Two States for Two Peoples.”

That clause was not approved, although Amendment 103b — proposed by NEC member Joe Cox — went through.

It called on the NEC to “ensure that any BDS activity does not target Israeli citizens, particularly Israeli students studying at UK … institutions.”

It also urged the NRC “to ensure that any BDS activity does not target or impact Jewish students’ ability to study on their campus, particularly regarding provision of Kosher food, provision of religious items, and by ensuring a zero-tolerance approach to antisemitism/ hostile environments where Jewish students feel uncomfortable during campus BDS debates.”

NEC member Emily Horsfall, who seconded the resolution, said she was “incredibly proud” to have spoken in favor of amendment and hailed its passage.

“Our policy should not make any students feel uncomfortable on our campuses or in our communities,” she wrote on Twitter, adding that the Union of Jewish Students (UJS) does “vital work every day to make Jewish students feel safe and I am proud to stand with them.”

UJS, which represents some 8,500 students in the UK and Ireland, has been critical of Motion 103, calling BDS ahead of the vote “a divisive campaign which dampens progressive voices, pushes the chances of peace further away, and marginalizes Jewish students on campus.”

It also denounced the NEC’s failure to consider an emergency motion urging the UK government to fully recognize Hezbollah as a terrorist group. London currently proscribes the Iranian proxy’s military wing, but not its political wing.

The distinction has been rejected by leading members of Hezbollah, including its Deputy Secretary General Naim Qassem, who asserted in 2012, “We don’t have a military wing and a political one.” Yet it has allowed supporters of the Shia Islamist group to display the group’s flags at the annual Al-Quds Day March in London, which will take place on Sunday.

Lenga‏ proposed the resolution after police confirmed on May 30th that Hezbollah flags will be permitted at this year’s protest as well.

“It was ‘decided’ by members of the NEC that this motion will not be brought to the meeting as it is not ‘enough’ of an emergency and it can ‘apparently’ wait until the next NUSNEC meeting. IN SEPTEMBER,” Lenga wrote on Twitter. “Making sure antisemitic terrorists are kept off of our streets is apparently not enough of an emergency for some of my colleagues.”

Amanda Bowman, vice president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the leading representative body of British Jewry, told The Algemeiner that the NEC was “hypocritical to be censuring Israel but not an openly antisemitic terrorist organisation which has indiscriminately killed Jews in terrorist attacks around the world and joined in the wanton slaughter of Palestinians in Syria.”

She also denounced the “divisive” BDS motion for singling out Israel, “the region’s only liberal democracy, for hostility, [while] ignoring the human rights abuses by other rogue states in the region.”

Jack Robinson, a campaigns and democracy officer at the University of East Anglia Student’s Union, likewise criticized NUS for deciding “that debating BDS and Israel is more important than Hezbollah.”

“And people literally wonder why students have no faith in this organization?” he wrote on Twitter.

Robinson also pointed out that the NEC prioritized Motion 103 above other resolutions by placing it first in the order of motions. “The NEC putting BDS policy above student nurses, childcare, housing, and [Further Education] travel tells you all you need about NUS,” he observed.

The NEC decisions renew the NUS’s backing of BDS, which was last endorsed by the organization during its 2015 National Conference. However, that policy lapsed after no BDS policy was adopted at the 2018 National Conference.

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