USACBI extends its warmest congratulations to the students and staff at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) for endorsing an academic boycott of Israel through the passage of a referendum that also was supported by PACBI and Palestinian student and academic unions. That 73% of the 2,056 votes cast between February 23-27, 2015 by members of the SOAS community were in favor of the Boycott Referendum and only 27% opposed is a historic victory for the BDS movement. This outcome also is a testament to SOAS”s ongoing commitment to justice and freedom for Palestinians, as it successfully realizes the motion the SOAS Students” Union passed in 2005, calling on the Union “to take the BDS campaign to the University” through a school-wide referendum. So, too, that 91% of SOAS contract workers voted to support the referendum–one championed by the Justice for Cleaners campaign–underlines the key role of working class people and movements in building solidarity with Palestine, including in academic boycott campaigns. USACBI also applauds the LGBTQIA+ Society, the Kashmir Solidarity Movement, and the Tamil Society for backing the SOAS campaign.
The SOAS referendum, together with the related recent successes at the University of California, Northwestern, and Stanford, evidences the tremendous international support for the BDS movement as a means to end Israeli settler colonialism, apartheid, and occupation.
The SOAS press release is reprinted below, following the link to a video produced as part of the SOAS “Vote YES!” Campaign:
PRESS RELEASE 27/02/2015 FOR IMMEDIATE USE
A historic victory for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement was achieved today in the referendum on the academic boycott of Israel, at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London. Out of 2056 votes cast, an overwhelming majority of 73% voted in favour of boycotting Israeli academic institutions. This victory reinforces the demands of the BDS call issued in 2005 by Palestinian civil society organisations.
The voting took place between 23rd and 27th of February. The referendum was School-wide, that is, it was open to all members of the SOAS community. This included current students, academics, non-academic staff, university governors, and outsourced workers such as cleaners, security, and catering staff.
SOAS represents one of the most diverse student bodies in the UK with roughly 6,000 students and staff of multi-faith backgrounds from over 133 countries. The referendum was called for by the Students” Union, and was conducted in an open, fair and transparent environment. Both the Yes and No campaigners were given equal platforms to hold panel discussions and debates.
The academic boycott campaign was led by students and staff from various nationalities, backgrounds, and faith groups reflecting the broad support for the boycott. It has demonstrated the popular appeal of BDS as a powerful form of protest and resistance.
By voting in favour of the academic boycott, the SOAS community has confirmed its unwavering commitment to freedom, equality and justice for all Palestinians and has reasserted its call for an end to Israeli apartheid, oppressive occupation, and settler-colonialism.
Presently, SOAS has ties with the Hebrew University, which unapologetically joined the “war effort“ last summer when the Israeli army murdered over 2,000 Palestinians in Gaza. In October 2014, the US weapons-producer Lockheed Martin announced that a cooperation agreement had been signed with Yissum, a technology firm that belongs to the Hebrew University.
The academic boycott campaign stresses that the boycott does not contradict academic freedom as it targets Israeli institutions complicit in the oppression of Palestinians, not individuals. Open enquiry, free exchange of ideas, and intellectual freedom are crucial to every academic community, but freedom can only be real when it is afforded to all. This has to include the Palestinians.
The Palestine Society and the BDS campaign at SOAS state:”¨”This historic result has brought us one step further in our struggle for freedom and justice. We do not tolerate any collaboration with academic institutions which are complicit in human rights violations and which do not practice the values of academic freedom and equality. We call upon other universities to show their solidarity by joining the academic boycott.”