Students at Sussex University overwhelmingly voted against an academic and cultural boycott of Israel. The No campaign received close to 60% of the vote, winning with 904 votes compared to 649 in favour. This victory was particularly noteworthy as Sussex has proved to be a challenging campus in relation to the debate on Israel and the Middle East. In recognition of this, those leading the No campaign, including Miriam Steiner who was recently taken to Israel on a UJS activist training trip, tailored the campaign to their context:
The campaign focused around progressive ideas and attitudes to occupation that are not typical from the anti-BDS campaign and was led by Daniel Ben-Chorin, Joshua Brill and myself. It focused on highlighting those people working towards an end to occupation of Palestinian territories, a two/multi-state solution that both sides agree with, and academic freedom within Israel and Palestine. A group was set up called “Pro: Palestine, Israel, Peace” that is intended to be a force for greater discussion and inclusion at the University and the wider Sussex community. (Miriam Steiner, leader of the No Campaign)
This success follows another significant victory within NUS, with the National Executive rejecting a call to Boycott Israel within a motion ostensibly in support of Palestinians’ right to education: NUS rejects Israel boycott bid. Earlier this year, UJS supported Jewish students to defeat BDS motions in Manchester & Birmingham, securing 82% the vote to safeguard the cooperation between Manchester University and the Technion and 74% voting with us to remove all reference to Israel from a motion boycotting G4S.
The successful outcome of last Friday’s vote at Sussex once again proves that there is a space for Israel on UK campuses, and solidifies the message we should all remember that when there are those who wish to defend their identity with Israel, and they do so in their own words, then a fair and representative conversation can take place.
Written by Maggie Suissa, UJS Campaigns Director. Read her blog to the JC here.