I believe that The University of York should join the growing, international BDS (boycotts, divestment and sanctions) movement against Israel, by supporting the academic boycott of Israeli university and research institutions.
I believe that we have a moral duty to show solidarity with this Palestinian campaign which states on its website that a boycott be carried out until Israel ends its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands occupied in June 1967 and dismantles the Wall. Israel must also recognize the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality, and respect, protect and promote the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN Resolution 194.
These demands are essentially requiring Israel to abide with international law, which Israel has flagrantly disregarded since its inception. So why should we support the movement?
The recent, murderous assault on Gaza might have been reason enough for a worldwide boycott of Israeli institutions. Over 2,100 Palestinians were killed, with over 70 per cent of those being civilians. Israel has been accused of committing multiple war crimes during the assault; three UN schools were bombed during the campaign, thousands of homes were destroyed along with vital civilian infrastructure –such as Gaza’s only power station and multiple hospitals – being badly (and deliberately) damaged.
The recent assault was of course not abnormal. The Wikipedia page entitled “Gaza War” gives you the morbid choice of selecting a page dedicated to one of the three Israeli assaults on Gaza in the last six years – six-year old Gazans have already lived through three attacks on their tiny strip of land by one of the most powerful armies on Earth. According to UNICEF, 400,000 Palestinian children in Gaza now need urgent psychological support, and eight out of ten are now dependent on humanitarian assistance. After the recent siege, the poverty rate is well over 90 per cent.
It’s important to bear in mind that ‘normal’ life in Gaza is horrific enough. It is essentially a huge open-air prison with 1.8 million inmates; the vast majority of Gazans are not allowed out of the area whatsoever and there is a severe restriction on imports to the point where hospitals are chronically under-resourced, reconstruction efforts futile and the population eternally under-fed; there is a severe humanitarian crisis.
The oppression of Palestinians is just as egregious in the occupied territories in the West Bank as it is in Gaza. The bulk of these territories –which are internationally recognised as illegal –consist of areas seized in the Six Day War of 1967 but Israel has since annexed far more land. The pernicious expansion of Israeli settlements since that war has further fragmented Palestinian land in the West Bank into a series of disjointed ghettoes which are all under military occupation. Just a few days after the recent assault on Gaza ended Israel annexed a further 1,000 acres of West Bank land.
This is to say nothing of the oppression of Palestinian-Israeli citizens or the plight of the millions of Palestinian refugees in camps in surrounding countries, and of course I have only merely summarised the occupation in the West Bank and the siege of Gaza. The full story only gets more harrowing.
Critics deride the boycott movement as anti-Semitic. It isn’t, it is a vital movement to draw attention to and put pressure on a rogue, jingoistic state which is ethnically cleansing Palestinians from their land. It has nothing to do with Israel’s Jewish heritage; no state should be allowed to get away with what Israel has done. A civilian-led movement is particularly crucial in this case, as the international community has long been paralysed into little more than a spectator of the Palestinians’ plight by the United State’s staunch diplomatic protection and colossal military support for Israel. With the world’s self-elected super-power sheltering Israel from the wrath of international law, it is only a grass-roots movement like the BDS campaign that can achieve real change.
I propose that YUSU hold a referendum to decide whether the students of the university should officially endorse the academic aspect of the boycott movement.