Elham Asaad Buaras
Students at the University of Exeter voted overwhelmingly to boycott illegal Israeli settlement products in what was the highest referendum turnout in the university’s history. 86% of the 1,040 students who voted on October 24 voted to boycott Israeli settlement products.
A spokesman for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign said the landslide victory for boycott “is especially significant given the historically conservative nature of the university. The result demonstrates the growing momentum behind the BDS movement, in the United Kingdom and internationally.”
The Students’ Guild is currently holding an investigation into whether or not the University of Exeter purchased goods from the settlements. BDS campaigners say there is unconfirmed reports the university stocked some fruit and vegetables from the settlements. “This boycott also ensures that no new products will be ordered from the settlements.”
The boycott decision follows the 2005 Palestinian civil society call for BDS campaigns against Israel, aimed at pressuring the Israeli Government to respect international law and human rights.
The action also aims to bring the University of Exeter in line with the National Union of Students and recent EU regulations relating to goods produced in illegal Israeli settlements. World-renowned historian and University of Exeter Professor IlanPappé offered his praise for the campaign organizers. “I congratulate the group of students that ran the campaign,” he said. “This is just the beginning.”
A spike in BDS activity has occurred since earlier this year, when Israel launched its most recent attack on the Gaza Strip. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), 2,189 Palestinians were killed during the 50-day assault, including 513 children.
Marcel Golten of Exeter Defend Education said, “This vote reflects both the hard work of those campaigning in support of this referendum and also the importance of this issue to the student body. Exeter Defend Education recognizes this as a concrete step towards a just peace in Palestine and Israel. We look forward to supporting future campaigns to this end.”
Francesco Amoruso, a member of BDS campaign, explained, “In light of a Peace Process that has failed for decades, we believe that BDS is civil society’s most effective means to encourage peace and equal rights for all. We call on all people of conscious to join us in these efforts.”