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April 29, 2022 1:32 pm

University of Liverpool Students Reject Movement to Boycott Israel in Vote

avatar by Dion J. Pierre

University of Liverpool. Photo: Superchilum/Wikimedia Commons.

Students at University of Liverpool rejected the boycott, sanctions, divestment (BDS) campaign against Israel in a school-wide referendum that was held this week.

On Friday, the Liverpool Guild of Students (LGS) announced that a proposal to endorse BDS was defeated by 72 votes, with 820 students voting against it and 748 voting in favor. 1,568 students, or 5.5% of the student body, participated in the referendum.

According to the LGS, the measure was first suggested in October on the “Change It” page of its website, a forum where students can request that the Guild endorse an idea or action. It was later debated on February 8 in LGS’ Guild Summit, a randomly selected body of 50 students that decides if “Change It” proposals should be sent to LGS’ Board of Trustees for final approval.

The question of whether to endorse BDS divided the Guild Summit, however, triggering a referendum in which the student body would have the final say.

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“The referendum gave all students the opportunity to express their views on this topic and shape the action we should take,” LGS said, noting that it recognized the “sensitive nature of the referendum and the impact it has had across both sides of the debate.”

“We are committed to continuing to build positive campus relations and will be putting steps in place to ensure this,” it continued.

The Union of Jewish Students (UJS) cheered the referendum’s outcome on Friday, tweeting, “Mazel tov to Liverpool Jewish society and students for defeating a BDS referendum at Liverpool Guild of Students. Dialogue, not division, is the way to bring about better understanding on campus, as well as an eventual end to the conflict.”

The BDS movement opposes Zionism and rejects Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state, seeking to isolate Israel with economic, political, and cultural boycotts.

Earlier this month, according to the Liverpool Echo, Jewish students at University of Liverpool urged LGS to call off the vote, arguing that it endangered the university’s “positive reputation as an inclusive environment where Jewish students feel safe and welcomed.”

“By hosting this referendum, you demonstrate that you do not care for [Jewish students’] safety, their wellbeing, or their concerns that come with this event going ahead. The BDS movement drives wedges between communities,” the students said in a letter to the body. “We do not expect every student at University of Liverpool to agree with each other on matters of Israel and the Palestinians. What we hope for is an understanding. BDS brings no hope of this understanding to the table.”

The referendum’s defeat trails a series of antisemitic outrages at universities across the United Kingdom, and calls for the government to address antisemitism in the country’s higher education institutions. In January, Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi pledged to “send out a clear message that antisemitism — like other forms of racism — will never be tolerated in our classrooms or campuses.”

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