University of Exeter students vote to boycott Israeli settlement products in a landslide

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Students at the University of Exeter have voted overwhelmingly in support of a boycott of goods produced in illegal Israeli settlements. The referendum, which garnered 86% approval, generated the largest voter turnout in the history of the university.

Tabling during voting period (Photo: Marcel Golten)

Tabling during voting period (Photo: Marcel Golten)

Following Israel’s most recent attack on Gaza, a 50-day assault in which over 2,000 Palestinians were killed, Exeter Friends of Palestine, a student-led society, proposed a boycott of settlement goods to the Students’ Guild, whose purpose is to “represent the voice of the student body to the University.” The Guild turned the issue over to a student referendum after receiving hundreds of votes in favor of a democratic process for students to voice their position.

“The unprecedented turnout and high percentage of affirmative votes is a clear indication of the student opinion on this issue,” said May Muhtadi, co-President of Exeter Friends of Palestine. “Students are increasingly horrified by the actions of the Israeli government and are demanding accountability.” The campaign also received widespread support from the university’s faculty, including world-renowned historian Ilan Pappe. “I congratulate the group of students that ran the campaign,” he said. “This is just the beginning.”

This referendum follows on the heels of a vote in August by the UK National Union of Students (NUS) to ensure that “[the] NUS does not employ or work with companies identified as facilitating Israel’s military capacity, human rights abuses or illegal settlement activity.”

In increasingly desperate fashion, a vocal minority in opposition to the referendum actively campaigned against the motion, garnering only 13% of the vote. It is the opposition’s messaging, however, that is drawing increased ire from much of the campus community.

“They appropriated the Palestinian flag and purported to know what is best for Palestinians,” said Francesco Amoruso, a postgraduate student at the university. “This colonial mindset must be stopped in its tracks. They need to move aside so that Palestinians can speak for themselves.”

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Indeed, campaign material produced by the opposition group featured the Palestinian flag as a background image while insisting their opposition is fueled only by concern for Palestinian workers. Their official statement claimed that the boycott “will do more harm than good for the Palestinian cause, and we should look into other ways to promote the human rights and statehood of the Palestinian people.” In response, Exeter Friends of Palestine have published an open letter to opponents of the boycott, demanding a public apology and issuing a challenge to a public debate on the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

“In regards to the opposition, they know what is right and what is wrong. They should apologize immediately for the tactics they employed during this campaign and agree to a public debate on the issue,” said Charles Phillips, co-President of Exeter Friends of Palestine. “In the meantime, we will continue with our work to contribute what we can to the quest for justice, equality and self-determination for Palestinians.

About Andrew Meyer

Andrew Meyer is an M.A. candidate in Middle East and Islamic Studies at the University of Exeter and is a former member of the board of directors at The Rachel Corrie Foundation for Peace & Justice. Follow him on Twitter @littleofalot.

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22 Responses

  1. lonely rico
    October 28, 2014, 9:36 am

    Drip, drip, drip . . .

  2. just
    October 28, 2014, 9:38 am

    Well done! A resounding victory indeed!

    Thanks Andrew.

    “They appropriated the Palestinian flag and purported to know what is best for Palestinians,” said Francesco Amoruso, a postgraduate student at the university. “This colonial mindset must be stopped in its tracks. They need to move aside so that Palestinians can speak for themselves.”

    So important that they were called out on this as well. All the way is the way to do it.

  3. oldgeezer
    October 28, 2014, 10:16 am

    I think that they called out the opposition over it’s tactics is even better than the vote. Such dishonest tactics should be highlighted. Great news!

    • Sycamores
      October 28, 2014, 12:57 pm

      the vote and the called out are one of the same thing, both exposes Israel and its supporters of their dishonesty and criminal behaviour.

  4. a blah chick
    October 28, 2014, 10:18 am

    Isn’t it cute the way the opposition talks about how Palestinians will suffer under BDS? As if they cared.

    How about this, BDS opponents work to support a Palestinian economy that is independent of Israel, you know, reopen all those businesses that were destroyed by Israel’s antics. Now that would show their sincerity.

  5. ckg
    October 28, 2014, 10:24 am

    Thanks Andrew.

    An Oct 24 post at factchecker Snopes is so awful I hardly know where to begin:

    •Did Macy’s stop selling SodaStream because it’s made in Israel?

    Claim: Macy’s removed SodaStream products from its stores because the products are made in disputed territory in Israel.

    •PROBABLY FALSE

    Origins: In October 2014, a rumor began to circulate that retailer Macy’s had “caved” to activist pressure and removed SodaStream products from its retail outlets and online storefront. Claims stated the removal of Sodastream products from Macy’s stores came under pressure from activist groups who objected to the manufacture of the products in disputed territory in Israel.

    If Macy’s dropped SodaStream to placate pro-Palestinian interests in a public relations move, it’s highly unlikely the retailer would choose not to confirm its action. It is far more likely the overall weak market for home soda-making equipment influenced Macy’s decision to temporarily or permanently discontinue sales of SodaStream products. Neither company has yet officially commented on the status of Macy’s business relationship with SodaStream.

    First, it’s not made in Israel or in disputed Israeli territory–it’s made in the OPT West Bank. Second, those (musicians, companies) honoring the boycott often do not confirm for fear of backlash and lawfare. Third, the overall market of home soda-making equipment is mostly Sodastream. Fourth, the market may be weak because some consumers honor the boycott as they have become more aware.

    link to snopes.com

  6. peter123
    October 28, 2014, 12:19 pm

    Sounds like the “Masta” explaining the reason for keeping the “Nigga” slave under their control. Without “us” what would they do? Pathetic arrogance and racism.

  7. MHughes976
    October 28, 2014, 1:59 pm

    Ilan Pappe’s influence must be quite significant at Exeter. Not that many UK universities have ME studies departments – Exeter has quite a significant one. Knowledge tends to spread when there is no force of ignorance or delusion sufficient to counter it, I suppose.

    • HarryLaw
      October 28, 2014, 4:33 pm

      Dr Ghada Karmi Honorary research fellow in the Institute of Arab and Islamic studies at Exeter University, must also have a huge influence, pity they did not vote to Boycott the whole of Israel, since it is the GoI which is responsible for the settlements.

      • Walid
        October 28, 2014, 5:59 pm

        “… pity they did not vote to Boycott the whole of Israel, since it is the GoI which is responsible for the settlements. ”

        You’re right, Harry, BDS aimed only at settlements is timid and half-hearted. Settlements are not self-sustaining but exist and flourish because of Israel.

      • oldgeezer
        October 28, 2014, 6:03 pm

        BDS aimed only at settlements is not only timid but wrong. It would not be happening at all if not for the GoI. Not that I excuse the settlers themselves but the actual responsibility rests with the entire state of Israel which promotes, funds, and protects the illegal activities.

      • Andrew M
        October 29, 2014, 6:00 am

        Labeling this campaign as “timid” and “one-sided” reflects a complete lack of knowledge around the groups overall, longterm strategy for BDS on campus at the University of Exeter. This is not a fault, of course, because neither of you attend the university or are involved in the group’s strategic planning, but it seems rather counter productive to spend time dismissing this victory in a public forum.

        I’d suggest reading chapter thirteen of Omar Barghouti’s Boycott Divestment Sanctions: The Global Struggle for Palestinian Rights titled “Boycotting Israeli Settlement Products: Tactic Versus Strategy”

      • Annie Robbins
        October 29, 2014, 6:40 am

        andrew, the largest voter turnout in the history of the university….and 86% approval, is just stunningly wonderful and represents an astonishing success for organizers. hands down.

        btw, Amorus’s concise response to the oppositions strategy can (and should) be replicated here on campuses in the US. because claiming to know what’s best for palestinians and claiming to be pro palestinian, as opposed to trying to defend israel, has been used here as well (with some success unfortunately). my hunch is it’s an overall (colonialist) strategy coming from the top, they need to be fully flushed and outed for this shapeshifting disingenuous charade.

        there’s nothing that brings me more confidence things are turning around than the youth today. 86%, just an incredible victory indeed! i can’t wait til we start getting those numbers on US campuses, and we will. thanks for your report.

      • Walid
        October 29, 2014, 11:53 am

        Andrew, I wasn’t knocking down BDS or Exeter as any effort in that direction is welcome. What BDS is achieving is of course good, but not good enough. Boycotting Israel is what’s needed, not just the settlements.

    • RoHa
      October 28, 2014, 7:24 pm

      Far too many year ago I did some research for my PhD in the U of Ex library. The ME section was so good it was hard to drag myself away from it and concentrate on my topic.

      • Andrew M
        October 29, 2014, 6:11 am

        I’m not sure if this was the case when you were here, but the old library basement now houses the Arab World Documentation Unit, an incredible collection of primary source material and documentary reference material. It is certainly my favorite place to study. Hope you’ll get to visit again sometime.

  8. Marnie
    October 28, 2014, 2:10 pm

    That is wonderful!

  9. John Smithson
    October 28, 2014, 5:21 pm

    I love the flag image – don’t vote for it – you’ll put some poor Palestinian factory worker out of a job.

    To me it’s like saying: ‘Don’t give CHEMO to that man who has a completely curable cancer, he might get a RASH!!!’

    How unbelievably disingenuous and inhuman. A new low. Glad to see the Exeter students possess the perspicacity to vote the way they did. Yeah you guys!

  10. Horizontal
    October 28, 2014, 5:31 pm

    Nice! The tick is clocking.

  11. Helena Cobban
    October 28, 2014, 10:04 pm

    Those Contras sound like the tired old Apartheid apologists who argued against the S. African boycott on the grounds that it would “hurt the Black South Africans.” The Black South Africans told them what they could do with *that* argument…. And the Palestinians at Exeter clearly have been doing the same to their Contras.

  12. Walid
    October 30, 2014, 8:30 am

    “Sweden Becomes the First E.U. Member to Recognize a Palestinian State
    Per Liljas 2:09 AM ET
    The decision, which has drawn the ire of Israel, comes unexpectedly early

    The Swedish government became the first E.U. member to officially recognize a Palestinian state on Thursday.

    Newly elected Prime Minister Stefan Lofven first announced the move at his swearing-in ceremony on Oct. 3, but he was not expected to follow through so soon, Haaretz reports….Sweden Becomes the First E.U. Member to Recognize a Palestinian State
    Per Liljas 2:09 AM ET
    The decision, which has drawn the ire of Israel, comes unexpectedly early

    The Swedish government became the first E.U. member to officially recognize a Palestinian state on Thursday.

    Newly elected Prime Minister Stefan Lofven first announced the move at his swearing-in ceremony on Oct. 3, but he was not expected to follow through so soon, Haaretz reports…”

    link to time.com

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