Jewish students at University College London have threatened to resign from the union after a stormy AGM last Friday afternoon in which a motion was passed attacking Israel’s military actions in Gaza.
The motion declared that UCL had “a responsibility to condemn Israel’s attacks on Gaza”, and was passed by a majority of 34 votes.
The AGM was due to have been held three weeks ago but was delayed because of snow. Instead, it was rescheduled for Friday afternoon.
Daniel Sommer, UCL’s anti-racism officer, who is a member of JSoc, together with JSoc president Gabrielle Nejad, made official complaints to the union’s sabbatical officers when they were told that the timing could not be changed.
Last year, at the beginning of the autumn term, Mr Sommer protested when the ‘welcome general meeting’ was held on the eve of Yom Kippur. He said: “I was assured by the students’ union that no further general meeting would disenfranchise Jewish students.”
Nathanael Macdonald, the union’s finance and democracy officer, imposed a guillotine for discussing and voting on motions of at least one hour before the start of Shabbat at 5:22pm. But Aryeh Lehrer, a JSoc member present at the meeting, said: “The contentious issue was spoken about well after the deadline,” adding that “the union refused to stop this”.
Charlie Clinton, the union’s communications officer, said: “When the guillotine was reached at 4.30pm, the official time advertised, the debate was balanced and the vote held.”
Both Mr Lehrer and Mr Sommer, along with other members of JSoc, have said that they will resign from the union if there is not a new vote.
The motion passed mandates the union to arrange “the placement of a wooden placard in the UCL union building stating ‘UCL union is twinned with Al-Quds University (West Bank) and Al-Azhar University (Gaza).’”
In addition, it proposes “to offer public and material support for protests against Israeli aggression towards Gaza by mandating the communications officer to publicise in weekly emails all relevant demonstrations, occupations and events in solidarity with Palestine happening across London”. Mr Clinton claimed that the implementation of these proposals was still under review, and “may result in a referendum”.
At the same meeting the union rejected a proposal from Daniel Sommer “to support peace and unity in the Middle East and on campus”. It was not put to the vote.