NUS president Aaron Porter has condemned Motion 411, passed by the National Executive Council (NEC) last Tuesday, which labelled Israel an “apartheid state”.
Porter told Cherwell, “Democratic organisations sometimes make decisions that their leader disagrees with as I do with a recent vote of the NEC in relation to our policy on the Middle East. NUS has always taken a measured and balanced approach to the complex issues surrounding the Middle East and I believe changing that is damaging to all involved.’
‘NUS has worked closely with the Union of Jewish Students to tackle hate speech on campus and I am proud of that work. Jewish students must feel able to participate freely in our movement and will do all I can to persuade the NUS NEC to drop policy which is seen as anti-Israel and to further co-operation on campuses.”
The NEC conference resolved “to strongly condemn Israel’s siege on Gaza and actively campaign for it to be lifted in accordance with international law.”
Matt Herman, President of Oxford’s Israel Society condemned Motion 411 stating, “It took a measly twenty minutes to pass the motion.
‘Such a controversial, political issue should have opened up to in depth and scrutinising debate. This motion was passed with just 20 out of 50 members of NUS’s NEC present. This means that as few as 10 members of the NEC have determined a highly political policy decision on behalf of 7 million students than NUS claims to represent.”
Sam Rabinowitz a second-year at Balliol argued, “It does appear to have been passed constitutionally. But I think there’s a difference between unconstitutional and undemocratic. There does not seem to have been any attempt to encourage wider discussion and assess student opinion.’
First year Brasenose PPEist Eylon Aslan-Levy said, “When Israelis and Palestinians are trying to build a dialogue, a motion like this is simply unhelpful: it not only undermines the Palestinian moderates by playing to extremists’ demands, it also reinforces the Israeli mentality that the whole world is against Israel, which makes it harder for the government to engage diplomatically.’
A spokesperson for Palestince society commented, “The fact that the motion was passed is very positive and it recognises the awareness on the part of students against the injustices taking place in the occupied territories. It was not undemocratic.
‘Students have a very important role to play in combatting injustice. The student movement against apartheid South Africa had a massive impact. If we act as a collective against injustice, it will make a difference”.