King’s students will vote on a controversial anti-Israel BDS motion at their Student General Meeting next Tuesday
The news comes after a backlash to the proposal in which students have slammed the boycott as “poisonous and divisive”.
In response to the BDS movement, pro-Israel students have formed the KCL Israel Society, a group that has vowed “not rest until the motion is defeated”.
The Society’s president, Sami Steinbock, told The Tab:
“The Israel society was founded in order to improve the framework at KCL for an open and two-sided debate on Israel and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The society aims to provide a more rounded education to students who are eager to learn more about the situation in order to challenge the continued delegitimisation of Israel”.
And King’s students can have their say on the controversial motion at their Student General Meeting next Tuesday.
The motion, which was due to be debated last term but was withdrawn after the threat of legal action, has since reappeared after the KCLSU Trustee Board has given the green-light for it to debated at the upcoming Student General Meeting.
The proposal calls for KCLSU to “pressure King’s College London to divest from Israel”, to “promote resolutions condemning Israeli violations of international law” and to “affiliate KCL to the Palestine BDS National Committee”
The supporters also seek “a plaque in all KCLSU student centres acknowledging that KCLSU formally supported the BDS call”.
Sami Steinbock said in a letter to KCLSU Trustees:
“We are greatly disturbed by the thought that our university, which is dedicated to the pursuit of truth and knowledge, could be called on to ban cooperation with the universities and cultural groups of any other country. We regard this as an outrageous assault on intellectual and academic freedom”
Particularly, students have spoken against clause 5 of the motion which sets out that KCL ‘affiliate’ itself to the Palestine BDS National Committee, a coalition that includes the ‘Council of National and Islamic Forces of Palestine’ – a group that has been accused of facilitating terrorism.
On behalf of the KCL Israeli Society, London Assembly Member Andrew Dismore asked Boris Johnson what are the consequences of “the growing trend for student unions to pass anti-israel boycott motions?”
The Mayor replied, “London is a wonderfully diverse city and I am committed to tackling discrimination in London. Universities have clear legal obligations under the provisions of the Equality Act 2010 to prevent activities that could potentially discriminate against, harass or victimise others. Israel remains a vibrant, democratic economy and a great source of academic research and knowledge and I condemn any one-sided boycott”.
“A motion to boycott Israel effectively tells Israeli students that they are not welcome at KCL. While not a student at King’s, I am distressed by the idea that any Student Union would even consider denying academic collaboration with another country. This is a slap in the face for all those who love freedom of expression.”
Although the proposers have said that “BDS does not discriminate against individuals and Israeli students”, there have been a number of cases whereIsraeli students have been discriminated against by professors for their views.
“University institutions such as King’s College London depend on freedom of speech and freedom of enquiry. As knowledge is worldwide, no restrictions should be placed on the location of the individuals or the institutions with which UK universities and their academics may wish to associate.’’
Yet King’s isn’t the only university to speak against the BDS movement. Most prominently, Larry Summers, past President of Harvard University, has described the BDS movement as ‘anti-Semitic in effect, if not intent.’ Likewise, the current President of Columbia University, Lee Bollinger, has called the movement ‘grotesque and offensive.’