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UK student union to support campus boycott initiatives

The National Union of Student’s (NUS) National Executive Council has unanimously adopted a proposal mandating the body to work with local Student Unions to lobby universities to cancel contracts with Eden Springs.

Recommendation 404 (p.68 of this PDF) describes how Israeli company Eden Springs has a bottling plant in the Occupied Golan Heights, and notes the illegality of settlements under international law.

404 finishes with the following paragraph (my emphasis):

Conference Resolves:

  1. To mandate the VP Society and Citizenship to write to the Chief Executive of Eden Springs outlining NUS’ objections to their bottling plant in the Golan Heights and asking them to remove it.
  2. For NUS to constructively engage with Eden Springs.
  3. To release guidance for students campaigning on ethical purchasing, including information about Eden Springs and how best to engage with their universities, colleges or city councils to lobby them to cancel their contracts.
  4. To research which universities and colleges have contracts with Eden Springs and work with local SUs to lobby universities to remove Eden Springs.

This official endorsement by the NUS of a boycott campaign on campuses nationwide is a great success for all the students who have already been working hard on Eden Springs. Material on Veolia and Eden Springs has been on the NUS website since January, and the NEC have already condemned a collaboration between King’s College London (KCL) and Ahava.

An amendment to Recommendation 404 proposing a full endorsement of the BDS call was – unsurprisingly – not adopted (a fact that Israel advocates have sought to hide behind). However, the fate of another amendment, submitted by Leeds University Union, is encouraging. This sought to take the teeth out of the original proposal, deleting:

  1. To release guidance for students campaigning on ethical purchasing, including information about Eden Springs and how best to engage with their universities, colleges or city councils to lobby them to cancel their contracts.
  2. To research which universities and colleges have contracts with Eden Springs and work with local SUs to lobby universities to remove Eden Springs.

and adding:

  1. To release guidance for students campaigning on ethical purchasing, including information about Eden Springs and how best to engage with their universities, colleges or city councils to lobby them to constructively engage with Eden Springs.
  2. To research which universities and colleges have contracts with Eden Springs and work with local SUs to lobby universities to constructively engage with Eden Springs.

This attempt to derail the boycott motion through pushing only for “constructive engagement” failed. The parameters of debate are changing fast, leaving Israel’s lobbyists struggling to adjust to the growing momentum of pro-justice campaigners.

Original Link: http://electronicintifada.net/blogs/ben-white/uk-student-union-support-campus-divestment-initiatives

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