University of Liverpool students vote for BDS

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Students at the University of Liverpool have voted to support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, in a significant victory for Palestinian solidarity campaigners.

The motion commits the Liverpool Guild of Students to, among other things, advocate divestment from companies complicit in the Israeli occupation, and to lobby the university to similarly divest. The motion also mandates the Guild to stop stocking Israeli products.

The full BDS motion can be read here.

More than 1,000 students participated in the Liverpool Guild of Students preferendum, where they were presented with three options: ‘Yes’, ‘No’, or an alternative solution that rejected BDS, but encouraged the union to “raise awareness of the issue.”

Under the preferendum system, students could choose their favourite option from the three choices, or “your top two or rank all three in order of preference.” Points were then assigned “to each option based on the order of preference.”

There were a total of 1,866 points in support of BDS, with 934 opposed to the motion and 1,479 points supporting the alternative solution.

In a press release responding to the victory, the University of Liverpool Friends of Palestine (ULFOP) hailed “a landslide victory” despite a voting system they claimed meant the odds were against them.

“The ballot had one option to pass the motion and two options not to pass the motion. If students didn’t rank all of these options, then their one chosen option was given less weight.”

Despite this and other challenges, ULFOP stated that “the scale of the victory for BDS clearly shows that a large majority of the student body is, or has been made, aware of Israel’s apartheid regime and oppression of the Palestinians, and is prepared to make a stand against it.”

Zohra, a ULFOP member quoted in the press release, described the result as “a genuine reflection of the mood on campus - where students from all faiths and backgrounds believe that the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian people and their territories is unjust, akin to an apartheid system and thus cannot be allowed to continue.”

In a reference to objections by Israel’s defenders, ULFOP said “they wholeheartedly reject any claims that BDS is divisive on campus, instead recognising that the BDS movement is a non-violent and effective means of applying pressure on the Israeli government and the companies benefitting from the occupation of Palestine.”

Meanwhile, the Union of Jewish Students, who sent an official to Liverpool to support the ‘No’ campaign, described the result as “disappointing”, vowing to work with the Liverpool Jewish Society to continue making “the case against BDS” on campus.