UJS confident that NUS Israel boycott plan will fail

The Union of Jewish Students is confident that a proposal to implement anti-Israel policies at the National Union of Students will fail.

A motion seeking a boycott of Israel was due to be voted on at the NUS annual conference in Sheffield on Tuesday, but did not go ahead due to time constraints.

A decision on whether to go-ahead with the plan will now be taken by the NUS’s national executive committee, which is expected to meet next month.

Students at the conference were asked to back a plan to lobby universities and government to terminate contracts with “companies that are complicit in the occupation of the Palestinian territories”.

The motion was proposed by Sheffield University and Goldsmiths College, London, and would have seen a push for universities to increase anti-Israel campaigning and student unions encouraged to twin with Palestinian unions.

UJS said its own campaigning and polling during the conference had received an “overwhelmingly positive response from delegates” who were opposed to NUS working with anti-Israel activists.

A UJS spokeswoman said the union hoped the NUS NEC would “recognise the mass student voice and opinion on this matter” and reject the boycott proposal.

Meanwhile around 150 people attended a UJS fringe meeting at the conference on Monday evening.

They heard from former Hizb ut-Tahrir member Rashad Ali and ex-National Front activist Matthew Collins about the threat posed by extremist groups on campuses.

The meeting was followed by a Yom Hashoah ceremony which included poetry readings and a minute’s silence.

UJS campaigns director Judith Flacks chaired the event and said: “We have an important responsibility to ourselves, each other, our campuses, our union and our communities, to call out extremism wherever we see it because this matter is not waning in its urgency.”

The NUS elected Toni Pearce as its new president. UJS said Ms Pearce, a current NUS vice-president, was “supportive of the work UJS does” and that the Jewish union was “excited” to work with her.

Rachel Wenstone was re-elected as NUS vice-president for higher education.

Outgoing NUS president Liam Burns has used his two years as leader to campaign against antisemitism on campus but only occasionally intervened in issues relating to Israel and the Palestinians. In January last year he asked King’s College London to reconsider its involvement in a research project with Israeli cosmetics company Ahava.

Mr Burns told the UJS conference in 2011 that criticism from the Jewish community and the JC of a raft of vehemently anti-Israel policies adopted by NUS before he became president had “done more harm than good”. The policies were later dropped.

Last updated: 4:45pm, April 11 2013