You may recall that, following Liverpool University Guild of Students’ adoption of a BDS policy, I wrote to the President of the Guild to explain why that was a discriminatory and wrong-headed decision, and asking him to revoke it.
Well, he has now replied. Below, I copy his response to me, and my further response to him:
Thanks for your email, and apologies for the delay in getting back to you.
Please see our news story relating to the preferendum that happened here last week that gives the context to the decisionhttp://www.liverpoolguild.org/articles/preferendum-vote-supports-bds-motion.
Also, here is my comment in the press:
“We held a preferendum vote on the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement last week and the motion has been supported. The vote came about after it was suggested by one of our students through the Change It system and over a thousand students voted during the week. We will be meeting with both groups about this over the coming days to agree on the best way forward. Whatever the outcomes Liverpool Guild is fully committed to providing an inclusive and safe space for all our student groups.”
We have now had a chance to have met with our Jewish Society and Friends of Palestine Society and will be publishing an action plan to let students know what this means. During the campaign week information was published about the BDS campaign, both groups of students were given the chance to produce and distribute information during the week, as well as for both Summits, which discussed this issue prior to it coming to a Preferendum vote. There was also a debate facilitated during the week with external speakers invited by both the Jewish Society and Friends of Palestine Society.
We feel that we responded to the petition for a vote on this matter from our students in the fairest and least partisan way possible and as stated above are an organisation which is committed to equality, safe space and welcomes all students.
If I can be of any further assistance please let me know.
Thank you for your response. I am sure the process was very democratic, within the limitations of student democracy (which I’m sure I don’t need to spell out to you).
Unfortunately, sometimes the majority is simply wrong.
If one (one? Is that all it takes?) of your students suggested a vote supporting the execution of gay people in Iran or Saudi Arabia (to pick a randomly offensive example), I wonder whether you would put that forward to the student body in a preferendum – I suspect not.
I commend you for consulting with the Jewish Society and others, but the very need for such a consultation is revealing in itself.
It is a clear recognition that a) the issue is not one of “right” versus “wrong” which is surely the only occasion when a draconian step such as a boycott should be considered; and b) the result has the potential to adversely affect a body of students who have done nothing wrong and mean nobody any harm at all.
Whatever the outcome of your consultations, you can be certain that neither side will be happy. The majority of Jewish students will, for the reasons I set out in my first letter, be marginalised and nothing short of a total ban of anything positive about Israel will satisfy the BDS supporters.
It is surely better to admit that a mistake has been made than to subject the Guild and its members to an extended period of bitterness and recrimination which, I am afraid, you will find is unavoidable.
I therefore reiterate my call for you to revoke this policy and hope you will give this request your serious consideration.