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Students at the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile (UC) voted by a large majority to endorse the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement for Palestinian rights. The motion, proposed by the UC Organisation of Solidarity with Palestine (OSP UC) and debated at the Student Council on Friday, calls for an end to two agreements the UC has with the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Israel Institute of Technology - Technion because of their complicity with Israel’s violations of international law and the rights of Palestinians.
UC is one of Chile's oldest universities and one of the most recognized educational institutions in Latin America. The Student Council is made of 72 elected representatives from of all UC courses and campuses and includes the leadership of the UC Student Federation. Only two members voted against the resolution.
OSP UC congratulated the student body for this historic decision:
“After weeks of campaigning, awareness raising and debates it is with great joy and honor that we announce that the motion [supporting BDS] was approved. We are very proud of having been the motor for such an important effort for Palestine and Humanity at large.”
The UC Student Federation said the next step will be to put pressure on those in the university administration responsible for UC’s international relations:
“The UC Student Federation will take the motion to the UC Higher Honorable Council dealing directly with the dean in charge of international relations of our University. We congratulate OSP UC and everyone who was part of this process. Free Palestine!”
The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) and the Palestinian Students’ Campaign for the Academic Boycott of Israel (PSCABI) had called on the students and the entire academic community of UC to end the university’s institutional links with Israeli universities:
“Israeli academic institutions are deeply involved, by active choice, in Israel’s decades-old of occupation and colonization of Palestinian land, systematic discrimination against Palestinian citizens of Israel and the denial of the inalienable right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes”
“Our struggles for justice and human rights unite us. International solidarity with the Palestinian struggle for justice today intersects with struggles for racial, gender, economic, environmental and other forms of justice”
The President and the Secretary General of the South African Union of Students, which represents all student government bodies in the country, had also called upon UC students to support the initiative:
“Long before it was fashionable or sexy it was various Latin American countries, and of course the Palestinians, who gave us resources, training and other forms of solidarity. They stood with us, you stood with us, as today we stand together with Palestine. We are proud to give this solidarity back to other oppressed peoples of the world and we are proud to do so with you as a part of the global solidarity movement”
Students in Chile also received a letter from the South African Students Congress (SASCO), the largest student movement in South Africa and on the African continent, supporting the motion:
“We stand with the Palestinian people in the same way that we stand in solidarity with all oppressed peoples of the world. And indeed our solidarity with the oppressed is similar to your solidarity with us during the anti-apartheid movement”
“We recognise effective solidarity when we see it and we know for a fact that isolation campaigns work. We believe that students and activists have a duty and responsibility to heed the Palestinian appeal to pressure Israel into respecting international law, through the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement”
In South Africa, and particularly on university campuses, there is a strong and solid support for the Palestinian struggle and the BDS movement. In 2011, the University of Johannesburg terminated its relations with Israel's Ben Gurion University. Last year over 7 student government bodies have adopted BDS. The BDS movement is inspired by the South African anti-apartheid struggle.
Support for the academic boycott, called for by Palestinian civil society against “Israel’s regime of occupation, settler-colonialism and apartheid”, has been growing remarkably across Latin America. In Chile, the Law Faculty students at University of Chile voted for BDS in a referendum held earlier this year. In January more than 200 Brazilian professors and researchers declared their commitment to BDS. In Argentina, more than 100 professors, hundreds of students and 11 academic institutions have also signed an academic boycott pledge against Israeli universities. In 2012, the University of São Paulo students high representative congress endorsed BDS.