Home Comment Campus votes: should the Students’ Guild boycott illegal Israeli settlement products?

Campus votes: should the Students’ Guild boycott illegal Israeli settlement products?

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This week Exeter students will vote as to whether our university campus should boycott illegal Israeli settlement products, in light of Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian land. Here, Exeposé Comment gives you the arguments put forward by the people behind both campaigns.

 

“YES: The boycott is a non-violent strategy to end the occupation and promote equal rights.”

 

Over 170 Palestinian Civil Society groups have called for organisations across the world to join the Boycott, Divest and Sanctions (BDS) movement, so we are launching a campaign for the Students’ Guild to cease the selling of goods produced in Israel’s illegal settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories. Through this referendum, the BDS campaign seeks to bring Exeter’s Students’ Guild in line with international law, and the global condemnation of Israel’s illegal settlements.

Since the beginning of Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories in 1967, the Israeli government has constructed over 120 illegal settlements in the West Bank. The presence of these settlements is not only illegal in the eyes of international law, but is also in direct violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Most pertinently, the existence of such settlements continues to result in catastrophic acts of violence and discriminatory policies in the Palestinian territories, exercised by the settlers at the expense of the native Palestinian population. The continuous theft of resources, abuses committed against the Palestinians, and devastating acts of land grabbing are just some of the results of Israel’s illegal settlement construction in the West Bank, contributing to the unliveable realities of daily-life for Palestinians in the occupied territories. For these reasons, the international community, including the UN, the EU and the USA, unanimously consider Israel’s illegal settlements as one of the principle obstacles to achieving a durable and just peace in the region.

There is hope the boycott will bring justice to Palestine and its people. Image credit: theviewspaper.net
There is hope the boycott will bring justice to Palestine and its people. Image credit: theviewspaper.net

Boycotting the Israeli companies that operate in these settlements is the most effective non-violent strategy to pressure the Israeli government to stop its illegal settlement policy, withdraw its army from the occupied territories and respect international law and, most importantly, the human rights of the Palestinian people. We strongly believe that after the consistent failure of the USA-brokered peace-process and, given the incapability of the international community to force Israel to stop its illegal practices, this boycott – as a rights-based and non-violent approach – is the only viable instrument the international civil society has to encourage peace and justice for Palestinian society.

Indeed, we are aware that certain members of the student body will not welcome this campaign; however, we believe in the rights of all people to have a voice. Israel benefits from support by many groups and lobbies all over the world, and Exeter is not an exception. Primarily, the opposition has contested the “divisive” nature of the boycott, and we do not contest the divisiveness of this campaign. Campaigns are very often necessary paths towards equality, justice and democracy for all.

We are asking the students of our university to make a choice: to vote for the end of an illegal and violent practice, defending human rights by a non-violent means, or to maintain the current status-quo and be complicit in the systematic destruction of Palestinian lives and livelihoods. We remain confident that, through voting ‘YES’ in this referendum, the students of the University of Exeter will choose to stand up for human rights, justice and equality.

Francesco Amoruso & Charlotte Sefton, supporters of the “YES” campaign

 

 

“NO: the boycott is ill-advised, and we can do better.”

 

The Palestinian people do not benefit from a boycott of Israeli settlement goods.

In fact, while the boycott may seem like a simple and easy solution to us, it is little more than a symbolic gesture that actually has very negative consequences for the Palestinians themselves. I would urge anyone who truly cares about the lives of the Palestinians to vote against the proposed boycott.

This year the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS) targeted SodaStream, an Israeli company operating a factory in the West Bank. In the wake of the boycott, SodaStream are set to close their factory and relocate to Israeli territory, leaving 900 Palestinians out of work. Those workers were not political pawns for our misguided solidarity gestures; they were 900 real people who lost their jobs, and in a Palestinian economy with over 30% unemployment those jobs were indispensible.

The boycott will have a negative impact on job opportunities for Palestinians. Image credit: monstersfunhouse.com
The boycott could have a negative impact on job opportunities for Palestinians. Image credit: monstersfunhouse.com

SodaStream is not the exception. Companies like SodaStream respond to financial pressure from BDS by moving their operations out of the West Bank, and taking away vital economic capital with them. On top of that, a boycott of settlement goods would also attack charities and NGOs doing essential humanitarian work in the West Bank and Gaza, just because they necessarily interact with settlements in their line of work. With higher unemployment, less international aid, and constrained job opportunities, more and more Palestinians are being herded towards violent organisations like Hamas who seem to provide their only option. The boycott doesn’t promote peace and cooperation – it promotes partisanship at best and violent conflict at worst.

I have no doubt that everyone supporting this boycott has only the best intentions, and if the boycott is voted down I hope we can continue to work together in the interests of the Palestinians. I would absolutely encourage the Guild to look into other ways to support the rights and statehood of the Palestinians, but boycotting is counterproductive. It may be hard to accept when the issue is so fresh, but voting for this boycott would be a rash and dangerous decision. I would urge voters to weigh their righteous outrage at the recent conflict against the livelihoods of the Palestinians before they vote. Are we voting for a boycott because we’ve weighed up all the consequences and believe it is the solution to the conflict, or because it gratifies our desire to feel like we’re making a difference in the world? Voting NO might not seem to be the exciting choice for us, but it is the right choice for the Palestinians.

Dan Squire, campaign manager for the “NO” campaign

 

The vote is open now until Friday 24 October and can be found here: http://www.exeterguild.org/referenda/

 

Will you be voting ‘yes’ or ‘no’ in the campaign? Have either of these arguments swayed your decision? Tell us your reasoning behind your decision and comment on the vote below. 

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