Manchester students lose boycott motion

By Jonathan Kalmus, February 13, 2009

A motion to boycott Israeli goods and condemn Israel’s Gaza operation as an “atrocity” has been passed at Manchester University’s Student Union.

In an emergency general meeting on Wednesday afternoon, 550 students voted for the motion, defeating 200 voting against.

The motion will mean the union now resolves to boycott “all companies that support or benefit from the Israeli occupation” and will lobby the university to take similar action.

This was the second attempt by union society Action Palestine to pass the motion, after a meeting last Wednesday failed to get the quorum of 500 needed. It missed the number needed by only four.

This week, 150 Jewish students stormed out of the meeting, after a debate on the motion was cut short when a move to go directly to a vote was passed.

The president of Manchester Jewish Students, Jonathan Ison, said he was “disgusted” with the lack of open discussion by those calling for the motion.

“There was no listening, no negotiation — all we wanted to do was amend the motion, not reject it. We asked it to support humanitarian aid and jointly run fundraising events, but people in the room were not prepared to listen.

The union’s general secretary, Rob Pinfold , said he was “extremely concerned” that an amendment to condemn Hamas for its socially oppressive agenda was voted down.

“While I am mandated to follow current union policy, I feel condemnation of Hamas is also necessary in order to distance the University of Manchester Students' Union from a far-right, Islamist group who routinely practi s e torture, murder and execution of lesbian, gay and transsexual groups, dissidents and women.”

The motion said that “criticism of the s tate of Israel is not antisemitic in and of itself” and called the university to “give full scholarships to Palestinian students and Israelis who have refused to serve in the IDF.”

A statement from Manchester University said: “Of all institutions, universities have a special responsibility for safeguarding the freedom of their members to express any lawful idea, opinion or argument, no matter how unpopular or controversial. However, the University of Manchester will not tolerate behaviour by any member of staff or student which discriminates against any other member of the University on the grounds of race or religious belief.”

Last updated: 3:37pm, July 22 2009