Activists backing for BDS in student union poll


Staff and students at SOAS voted to implement a full academic boycott of Israel in what was described as a "referendum".

Backed by the union's boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, last week's poll saw 1,283 students vote to break SOAS's ties with the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. That represented 75 per cent of the people who voted. There were 425 votes against a boycott.

SOAS staff were allowed to take part in the poll. More than 300 employees did so, voting 60-40 for a boycott. Almost 40 contract workers - cleaners, security and catering staff - also backed sanctions.

A SOAS statement said the university had not endorsed the vote.

"While the poll has been described as a 'referendum' by the students' union, no details were provided in advance for what would make it quorate or valid," SOAS said.

It said less than 30 per cent of the "SOAS community" had voted and that the university had no legal obligation to act on the result.

University director Paul Webley said the vote amounted to no more than an opinion poll and would not affect ties to the Hebrew University.

JC columnist and academic Geoffrey Alderman said any boycott of Israel endorsed by SOAS could potentially be deemed illegal.

Professor Alderman said: "Under the 1986 Education Act SOAS has an academic duty to protect the freedom of expression of all employees and visiting speakers.

"So if the union at SOAS does persuade the governing body to 'no platform' certain types of speakers this would in my view run into legal problems with the 1986 Act."

Similar boycott motions at Bristol and Liverpool students' unions were defeated last month.

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