LSE student union backs divestment from Israel

After barely rejecting a similar motion in January, the London School of Economics Students’ Union Thursday approved a resolution calling for the university and the National Union of Students to divest from companies that do business in Israel, which they dubbed the “apartheid regime.”

Apparently the uniquely evil nature of Israel in the world has become an obsession for some LSE students. Have any of our readers attended any of these meetings at the school? Has anyone ever proposed a motion there to divest from, say, China, Sudan, Burma, Saudi Arabia, Iran– or for that matter, any of the 43 countries designated by Freedom House as “not free”?

If I were a student at LSE, I think I would make it my business to attend the next student union meeting and go down the list of those 43 countries, proposing a divestment motion for each one– until I was ruled out of order and removed by the sergeant-at-arms.

David T adds

I’m not a massive fan of boycotts. Serious ones can have unintended consequences particularly when they are systematically undermined. Symbolic ones are all well and good as ways of rallying opinion, but are only as good as the particular message that is being pushed.

That said, I wouldn’t be opposed in principle to a strategic boycott, including of Israel, if it was intended to give parties a push towards settlement, particularly where one party was keen to negotiate a proper equitable settlement, and there was a real possibility that the intransigence of the other party could be broken by such measures.

There’s a world of difference between that, and what is being proposed in the context of Israel by the BSM movement.

The BSM movement is part of a post-Durban push, to establish Israel as a pariah apartheid state. It does so, as part of a political movement which also devotes its efforts to (for example) crushing efforts like One Voice, which are genuine grassroots Two Statist initiatives.

A genuine two statist boycott motion would be an interesting thing to see.

1. It would start by making it very clear that it was committed to two separate states of Israel and Palestine, within secure and independent borders.

2. It would be balanced: the Naqba and the expulsion of the Mizrahi jews from the Arab world, the human rights abuses practiced by both sides, the legality of the establishing of the State of Israel alongside the illegality of continued settlement building, the consequences of the Wall on Palestinian lives alongside the consequences of the absence of the Wall on Israeli lives, and so on.

3. It would explicitly support concrete, existing Two States supporting initiatives. It wouldn’t – for example – endorse Two States but then support the right of return of the extended families and descendants of those who left 60 years ago: knowing full well that such a settlement is not a “Two States” one in any sense at all.

You can see what such a motion might look like, if you have a gander at the amendment to the Green Party’s own recently passed BDS motion. It is here on pages 17 and 18. You have to ask yourself why the BDS is committed to undermine constructive motions like this. The answer is simple.

A constructive push for peace isn’t the purpose of these motions, because the intent of the BDS movement is not to support Two States. It is, rather, to push the Durban agenda of delegitimising Israel.

Update: According to a commenter:

The motion does not refer to Israel as an apartheid state (the previous motion did but, in order to reach consensus, the new motion removed this reference).

The commenter says the LSE has already divested from Burma and Sudan.