UK student campaigners push for Israel boycott vote

25 February 2013
Students at Britain’s prestigious Oxford University are to vote later this week on a controversial motion to boycott Israel. The Oxford University Student’s Union (OUSU) is scheduled to meet on Wednesday to decide on a motion to join the international boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement in “in protest of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians and its hindrance of attempts to create a Palestinian state,” according to the newspaper ‘The Guardian’.

The motion calls on OUSU to endorse the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, “in protest at Israel’s treatment of Palestinians and its hindrance of attempts to create a Palestinian state,” the newspaper reports.

The BDS movement urges a boycott of Israeli exports as well as any firms – British and international – that do business in or with Israel. Some BDS supporters have also disrupted cultural events involving Israeli performers. Last week, the OUSU gave its colleges two additional weeks to debate the issue, after most failed to come to a decision.

Magdalene College, one of the constitute colleges of Oxford University, voted 39-3 against the motion to boycott Israel. “The boycott goes against everything the university stands for. The idea that we are not going to read your books or articles or hear your arguments on the basis of your nationality is ridiculous,” Henry Watson, a student at the college, told ‘The Guardian’.

Leftist lawmaker walks refuses to debate Israeli student

The OUSU vote comes amid increased tensions on campus over the past week. The extreme-left member of parliament George Galloway last week walked out on a debate with a student after he found out of the latter also held Israeli citizenship. “I don’t recognize Israel and I don’t debate with Israelis,” Galloway said, to gasps of shock and mutters of “racism”.

A later posting on Galloway’s Facebook page said: “I refused this evening at Oxford University to debate with an Israeli, a supporter of the apartheid state of Israel.” On his Twitter account, he posted: "No recognition, no normalization. Just boycott, divestment, sanctions. Like Apartheid SA. No Apartheid in Israel-Palestine."

Galloway is widely known for its anti-Israel views. He has openly supported Hamas, Syrian dictator President Bashar al-Assad, and has a television show on Iran’s state-run channel ‘Press TV’, where he defended his walkout and called Israel "a Zionist, terrorist rogue state that they call Israel".

Galloway with Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein in 1994

Galloway with Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein in 1994
In 2009, he also played a leading role in the ‘Viva Palestina’ convoy to Gaza, which resulted in his being deported from Egypt. He often speaks out against Zionism and Israel and has called Hezbollah as “the legitimate national resistance movement of Lebanon.”

The Board of Deputies of British Jews said in reaction: "British universities are rightly cherished as places where debate and discussion can thrive. Yet it would seem that those intent on demonizing the State of Israel would rather crush freedom of speech in pursuit of their own agenda of blind hatred."

Video: George Galloway' walks out of a debate at Oxford University after learning that a fellow debater is Israeli

Open letter to George Galloway MP

Following George Galloway's walkout, Mahmood Naji, a medical student at Christ Church College Oxford and founder of the 'Oxford Debates', sent the following open letter to Galloway (first published by the ‘Huffington Post UK’):

Dear Mr. Galloway,

It has not escaped my attention that, since discourteously walking out on an event I had spent much time and effort organizing, you have been claiming repeatedly that I had "misled" and "deceived" you. I was not intending on replying until I saw you once again attempt to, in my opinion, slander me on 'Press TV'.

In that broadcast you claimed, "... I was deceived; I was not told by the Iraqi, Muslim organizer of the event, that I would be debating against a 20-year old Israeli...". But let's look at the facts. Fortunately, all my correspondences with your secretary are saved in my inbox so we can refer to this record while scrutinizing your allegation. Here is what I told your secretary about your opponent:

"I can confirm that the venue for the debate will be the Blue Boar Lecture Theater in Christ Church. Mr. Galloway's opponent will be a student called Eylon Aslan-Levy. He is a final-year undergraduate at Brasenose College, reading philosophy, politics and economics. He has debated internationally for Oxford, including in Ireland, Serbia and Israel, and was the winner of the Mediterranean Universities Debating Championship in Istanbul in 2012. He delivered a paper speech in the Oxford Union debate on the Middle East in 2011."

Note, this was the only time Eylon was mentioned, in the entire thread, either by your secretary or I. It is strange that someone who takes such a hard-line view on debating Israelis should omit to ask whether or not his Jewish, pro-Israeli opponent, who has debated in Israel, is in fact Israeli. Your secretary did not go on to ask me about Eylon's nationality - indeed I did not know until the debate that Eylon is an Israeli - and even had I known Eylon's nationality, I was not aware of your staunch (and damaging) stance of boycotting Israeli individuals.

As the organizer, am I to know about every one of your views? Should I let you know if your opponent is a vegetarian in case you have a policy of not debating vegetarians? Am I misleading you if I do not tell you your opponent's shoe size? Think hard about the absurdity of your position. In none of the previous debates I had organized did it even occur to me to inform the debaters of their opponents' nationalities. This particular debate was no different.

Please know that I had been looking forward to seeing you put forward the case for Palestine and the Palestinian people. Instead I was left humiliated in front of a room full of people who had waited an hour and a half for your arrival, only to be subsequently accused of being deceptive and misleading. Does that seem fair to you Mr. Galloway?

Yours sincerely,

Mahmood (the Iraqi Muslim)

The boycott will put out of work only Palestinian workers

The movement to boycott Israeli products from the West Bank ignores the fact that the so- called settlement products are not produced by settlement but by factories in industrial areas on the West Bank.

The owners of the factories are Jews, but the workers are Palestinians.

By boycotting these products the victims will be thousands of Palestinians who will loose their jobs and become unemployed.

The hatred against Israel blinds the eyes of those who initiate the boycott movement