Oxford Student Union Votes Down Israel Boycott

Jewish students union responds to vote, stating that result shows 'Israelis are welcome at Oxford' and sends a clear statement that students will not be marginalized on the basis of their nationality.

The Oxford University Student Union voted down a motion on Wednesday calling for a boycott of Israel, its institutions, goods and produce.

According to the record of the vote at the prestigious university, 69 voted against the motion, 10 voted in favor, and 15 abstained.

Along with the boycott, the motion had also called for the university's students union, and for Britain's National Union of Students, to join the international campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel.

After the vote, the Union of Jewish Students said in a statement that the result shows “Israelis are welcome at Oxford and sends a clear statement that neither students, nor anyone else, will be marginalised at Oxford on the basis of their nationality.”

The union said it was “delighted to see that students have taken the decision to constructively engage with Israel, its ideas and people, rather than choosing to boycott.”

“'It's encouraging to see that this vote reflects a student body who are willing to discuss the complexities that exist within Israel and do not see boycotting it as a viable option or avenue to discuss the conflict,” Union of Jewish Students Campaigns Director, Judith Flacks, said.

The president of Oxford's student union, David J. Townsend, said in a statement: "There have been strong emotions on either side of this issue. A fulsome debate was had, there was ample opportunity for Colleges' student bodies to decide how to mandate their delegates, and a decisive resolution was achieved by the vote of those delegates today."

"Despite disagreements, there was in fact some common ground between proponents and opponents of the motion. I hope to see the different opinions come together in a spirit of goodwill to move away from boycotts, which break down relationships between the UK and Israel, and towards coalition-building activities, which build up relationships between progressive Britons, Israelis, Palestinians and others to find a solution to the problem which complies with law, justice and shared human rights. At the end of the day, that's the result that all good people want to see," he added. 

Wednesday’s vote followed tensions on the Oxford campus a week ago, after far-left British Member of Parliament George Galloway caused a storm by walking out of a debate on Israel's presence in the West Bank when he discovered that the speaker debating him was an Israeli citizen, Oxford University student Eylon Aslan-Levy.

Following the vote, Aslan-Levy said in a statement on his blog, ”Tonight Oxford students showed that their commitment to intellectual freedom is unshakeable. In rejecting calls for a boycott against Israel by a seven-to-one margin, we demonstrated resoundingly that we want Oxford to continue to cooperate with Israeli academics, trade with Israeli businesses and-yes-debate with Israeli debating societies. I hope that other British universities will follow Oxford's lead in standing up against divisive attempts to hinder academic cooperation and progress.”

A New York protester calling for a boycott of Israel.
AP