NUS scraps former anti-Israel policy

By Marcus Dysch, September 27, 2011
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Political wallpaper: an occupation at Manchester University  in 2008 has become a standard background for many Jewish students

Political wallpaper: an occupation at Manchester University in 2008 has become a standard background for many Jewish students

The National Union of Students has scrapped its anti-Israel policy and replaced it with a motion backing a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

NUS will now encourage student unions to host round-table debates on the situation in the Middle East and promote interfaith initiatives on campus.

The Union of Jewish Students said the new approach acted as a "ringing endorsement" for its own "Liberation" campaign, launched earlier this month to encourage students to back "two states for two peoples".

Delegates at the NUS national executive committee meeting last Thursday agreed by 19 votes to five, with nine abstentions, to discard the previous proposals adopted in May. They had vowed to send British students on future flotillas to Gaza, twin student unions with Palestinian universities, and called for the right of return for all Palestinian refugees.

UJS and the Board of Deputies had called those measures "regressive" and had encouraged NUS to "return to the mainstream of student politics".

Dannie Grufferty, NUS vice-president for society and citizenship, said: "The [previous] motion clearly made some students feel threatened and so it was important that we replaced it with something that was much more balanced. I hope that the policy we now have will create a space for open and safe debate on campuses."

The new policy pledges to "show solidarity and build links with those defending the Palestinian right to access education and humanitarian aid" but has also adopted plans to build partnerships between British and Israeli student unions.

It calls for equality for Palestinians living in Israel and recognises "the many complexities surrounding the conflict… including Jerusalem, Israeli settlements, rights to land and Palestinian refugees".

As part of the new proposal, NUS will educate its officers on the impact that the debate on Israel and the Palestinians has on student communities.

UJS campaigns director Dan Sheldon said: "It is encouraging to see such progress following the damaging policy passed in May.

"The policy is far from perfect, but NUS has moved in the right direction by adopting a policy that better reflects the diversity of opinion across the student body."

In a separate move, NUS has agreed to a "no platform" policy for the president and vice-president of University of Westminster Students' Union over concerns that they have links to extremist group Hizb ut-Tahrir. Tarik Mahri and Jamal Achchi were elected in April. Both had shared messages supportive of Hizb ut-Tahrir on internet sites.

UJS said there was no place for hate groups on campuses and called on UWSU to remove the pair from office.

Last updated: 2:14pm, September 27 2011