Jewish groups criticise DSU boycott of Israel

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The national Union of Jewish Students has accused Durham students in Durham Students’ Union’s (DSU) Assembly of “shutting down dialogue” after the body voted to lobby the University to boycott and divest from organisations that fund or support the Israeli government “as it commits acts of terror against the Palestinian people”.

The motion to “stand in solidarity with the people of Palestine”, presented by the Durham People of Colour Association (DPOCA), passed DSU’s Assembly last Thursday by a comfortable margin. Dan Takyi, President of DPOCA, said the motion was “standing on the shoulders” of the movement to boycott apartheid South Africa in the 1980s, saying that “they made a difference, and we hope that we can also”.

“The result of adopting BDS is fundamentally the shutting down of dialogue and the creation of division and
divisive environments.”

-Miriam Makin, President of JSOC

The motion also condemns the UK government “in its complicity in funding and supporting such acts of terror and grossly disproportionate violence”, arguing that DSU “has a duty to fight for the fundamental rights of the people of Palestine”.

Jewish student groups have expressed concern over the support of the Boycott, Divest and Sanction (BDS) movement in the motion. In a joint statement to Palatinate, the Union of Jewish Students (UJS) and Miriam Makin, President of Durham’s Jewish Society (JSoc), said: “The result of adopting BDS is fundamentally the shutting down of dialogue and the creation of division and divisive environments. In the past, we have seen antisemitic rhetoric used within the BDS movement, and this is inexcusable.

“Universities and Students’ Unions must be a place of respectful debate and discussion and BDS only creates hostility and negativity on campus, leading to division as opposed to cohesion. UJS and Durham JSoc are committed to seeing and supporting a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict. We support and welcome all students to have brave and tough conversations, in what should be a safe and open space, rather than an experience of exclusion, singling out, and turning it into a combative and negative environment on campus.”

“This is not a motion on antisemitism, the legitimacy of the Israeli state or the erasure of the suffering of the Israeli people, what this motions serves to be is a condemnation of a powerful government and its complicity in continued atrocities against comparatively powerless civilians.”

-Yash Raju, Vice President of DPOCA

Yash Raju, Vice-President of DPOCA, told Palatinate that this was not the intention: “This motion was a stance of solidarity with an oppressed people against a government with a grossly disproportionate amount of power which has continued to butcher innocent civilians.

“This is not a motion on antisemitism, the legitimacy of the Israeli state or the erasure of the suffering of the Israeli people, what this motions serves to be is a condemnation of a powerful government and its complicity in continued atrocities against comparatively powerless civilians.”

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