Nov 11th, 2009: Students at the University of Sussex have received messages of support from Palestinian grassroots organisations and Israeli and Jewish academics, following a decision by ballot to boycott Israeli goods.
The boycott referendum was in one of the best attended and closest contested in Sussex Student Union’s history, and the final result mandates the Union to remove all Israeli food produce from its stores.
The decision has received support from the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee, the grassroots Palestinian committee formed out of the campaign to boycott Israel in 2007. Speaking on behalf of its 23 member organisations, a spokesperson said that Sussex’s decision was significant as part of the international movement:
‘The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC) salutes Sussex University students for their decision to boycott Israeli goods.
‘Student movements played a key role in ending Apartheid in South Africa. Today, we call on students across the globe to boycott Israeli products and divest from Israel until it complies with fundamental human rights principles and international law.’
Elsewhere, the boycott at Sussex has come under fire, with the Jewish Chronicle lamenting it as an assault on ‘the Jewish state’. The result has also sparked an online backlash on Facebook from some pro-Israel and non-affiliated students at Sussex.
Meanwhile, Jewish and Israeli academics critical of the occupation of Palestine have shown their support. The scholar Norman G. Finkelstein commented,
It is heartening that Sussex students are actively engaged in ending the inhuman and illegal Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands. I consider this a victory not for Palestinians but for truth and justice.
Let us hope it transmits the message to Israel that it should end the occupation so that Palestinians can lead a decent life and amicable relations can be restored between Israelis and other peoples.
Dr Ronit Lentin, Senior Lecturer at Trinity College Dublin, also sent her support to Sussex students:
As a citizen of the State of Israel, and as an oppositionist Jew, I believe that boycotting is the most efficient non-violent strategy to motivate the Israeli state and Israeli citizens to re-think the occupation policy.
Non-governmental organisations campaigning for Human Rights have shown a similar response to the Sussex boycott. The UK charity War on Want sent its congratulations, with Yasmin Khan, Senior Campaigns Officer (Economic Justice), stating:
Palestinians have suffered under the Israeli repression for 61 years, during which time governments all over the world have allowed Israel to act with impunity. It is time for this to change.
The Boycott movement could be just the thing to finally bring justice to Palestine.
Messages of support were also received from the Palestinian grassroots organisation Stop the Wall, and the Badil Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights, in Bethlehem.