Israeli apartheid and boycott: student Palestine solidarity on campus

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The ‘UN year of solidarity with the Palestinian people’ is at its start and the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS) seems to be stepping up in strength as a protagonist of the solidarity work for Palestine.

BDS is an equal-rights based movement formed in 2005 by 170 Palestinian organisations, trade unions, and political parties. It emerged as a grass root reaction to decades of unfruitful negotiations within the international community. Its three demands are as follows:

  1. An end to the 1967 illegal occupation and colonisation of Palestinian lands and dismantling the separation Wall in the West Bank.
  2. Full equal rights for all Palestinian citizens of Israel. There are more than fifty laws in place today that discriminate against Palestinians based solely on ethnicity, rendering them as second class citizens.
  3. Respecting, protecting and promoting the right of return for Palestinian refugees to their homes as stipulated in UN Resolution 194. Currently, more than half of the Palestinian population lives outside mandatory Palestine and cannot exert its basic right of return.

Recent news circulating about BDS so far this year include the announcement of Dutch pension fund PGGM to divest million of Euros from 5 Israeli banks, the launch of UK government guidelines warning businesses of making businesses with illegal Israeli settlements, and the decision made by Oxfam to disassociate itself from its celebrity ambassador Scarlet Johanson for taking a job as the public face of Soda Stream, an Israeli company based on an illegal Israeli settlement.

The Boycott and Divestment movement is an international tool which was used to mobilise against apartheid. It takes its popularity from its success in bringing down the racist regime of South Africa 1948 – 1994. The NUS adopted the BDS call in the 1980s and we hope that the same is done again for Palestinians, starting at the King’s College Students Union.

Counter-BDS propaganda is varied, from the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) claiming boycotts harm Palestinian workers, to extreme accusations that BDS has anti-Semitic purposes, aiming “to destroy Israel and vilify Jews”. In its own realm, the recent surge of Pro-Palestine activism across UK universities has caused a comeback from the Israeli government, who has urged the British government to “lean on universities to prevent their participation in academic boycotts of the country”, according to a report from The Times.

King’s College London Action Palestine has started the academic year with great successes and the support for Palestine on campus seems to keep growing. Our victory against a multi million pound contract with G4S shows students are concerned.

King’s still has contracts and relationships with companies and organisations directly maintaining apartheid; G4S, Veolia, and the Interdisciplinary Centre Herzliya (ICH). G4S provides services and equipment to Israeli prisons, checkpoints and the Apartheid Wall; Veolia helps build and operate the Jerusalem Light Rail which links illegal settlements in occupied Palestinian territory with Israel; and the ICH is an organisation that hosts a conference every year between high profile political and business leaders that meet to discuss how to advance Israeli policy in the region.

Thanks to our successes, G4S’s remaining involvement is limited to cash collection services, its access control system at Denmark Hill campus was terminated at the start of this year. Veolia is involved in the disposal of rubbish at our campuses. At the academic level, King’s has strong links to the ICH through the  International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation (ICSR) in the War Studies Department.

It is imperative to have an encompassing platform to make King’s break links with these organisations; endorsing the BDS movement gives us this capability.

Be part of King’s campaign to get the Student Union endorse the call for BDS. Join us during Israeli Apartheid Week, and watch this space for “Liberation and Resistance: A cultural event” which will fuse poetry, cuisine, art and poetry in one big night of solidarity with the Palestinian people.

We can only succeed the help of students like you. Join KCL Action Palestine on Facebook or e-mail us to get involved at: kclactionpalestine@googlemail.com

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