When is an Israel society not an Israel Society
The aim of the proposers of the motion is to empower the Union to enter into discussions with the SOAS management to implement at SOAS an academic boycott of Israel. The boycotters are targeting the links SOAS currently has with the Hebrew University in Jerusalem (HU) as SOAS sends Hebrew language students to the HU for two semesters. If the BDS motion is adopted and even if SOAS refuses to discuss implementing BDS with the Union, pressure could be brought to bear on those students affected not to take up the option to go the HU.
Even if the referendum goes ahead and proposal is adopted, the Union trustees will be asked to consider if the BDS policy can be implemented because active support for BDS by the Union, which is a registered charity, is considered to be outside of the charitable objects of the Union, and in breach of SOAS Equality and Diversity policy.
However the Student Union shop at SOAS already enforces BDS as they have removed from their shelves Israeli goods and if it were not for the efforts of the J SOC they would have stopped selling Kosher sandwiches as well.
You may well ask, "where is the SOAS Israel society in all this?" Doesn't it oppose the BDS referendum?" The simple answer is that the SOAS Israel society has been hijacked and I quote from their website that the SOAS Israel Society :
"Asks integral questions of Israeli hegemony, its systemic exclusion of huge swathes of Israeli society, the rising tide of deliberately anti-democratic legislation and its policies towards the Palestinian refugees inside and outside the occupied Palestinian territories."
The Israel Society was relaunched in 2012 with an event titled "Is BDS working?" One of the speakers at this event was Prof. Ilan Pappé. In other words, the SOAS Israel society is an anti-Israel society, rather than concentrating on building a greater understanding amongst its fellow students of all things about Israel e.g., its achievements, its people, its culture , its politics as well as encouraging serious and critical debate about the Arab-Israeli conflict it concentrates instead on the negatives.
I contacted the SOAS Israel Society and was told that they are not a campaigning group and did not have an official position on BDS. Yet when they held a meeting last week to discuss the BDS referendum I was told that I was not allowed to attend because I was not a member of SOAS. I am however reliably informed that there were several non-SOAS students at the meeting as well as many supporters of BDS.
So when is an Israel society not an Israel Society, when it's the SOAS Israel society.
The Academic Friends of Israel
Lord Jonathan Sacks
Dr Manfred Gerstenfeld - Chairman of the Board of Fellows, Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.
Vivian Wineman - President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews
John D A Levy - Director of the Academic Study Group on Israel and the Middle East
Andrew R. Marks, M.D. - Columbia University, USA
Professor Leslie Wagner CBE
Rt Hon Lord Young of Graffham
The Academic Friends of Israel Ltd is limited by guarantee and registered in England No 5297417.