Pro-Israel group threatens City University students with legal action over BDS vote

City University. Editorial credit: Eugene Regis

UK Lawyers for Israel (UKLFI) has threatened City University Student Union with legal action after it overwhelmingly voted to support the boycott of Israel.

City University Student Union (CSU) passed a motion last week in favour of boycotting Israel because of its occupation of Palestine and aims to include the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement in an anti-racist campaign.

The motion was introduced after the university’s Friends of Palestine Society called on unions at the university to implement BDS.

According to the motion, the university has invested more than £500,000 in companies that are “complicit in Israeli violation of international law.” It called upon the university to divest from these companies “as per their ethical investment policy.”

Friends of Palestine said: “The Friends of Palestine society is proud to announce that the motion calling for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) has been passed during the Students Members’ Meeting (AGM). We are indebted to our allies who attended, voted and championed our motion. Today is a victory for the Palestinian cause and for the BDS movement.

“Now that the BDS movement is included in the ‘Decolonise City’ campaign, the Friends of Palestine society will work with the University and the Union to initiate an investigation into its involvement with companies complicit in Israel’s illegal actions within international law.

“A successful implementation of BDS would mean that City, University of London, will be recognising the fundamental rights of Palestinians by respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinians as stipulated by the United Nations…

“We would like to make it clear that the Union Board of Trustees must approve the motion. Failing to support this motion, which has been democratically voted for by students, would mean that the Trustees would be failing City students and democracy.”

But UKLFI said that the primary objective of the student union is “the advancement of education of students and promoting the interests and welfare of students at City.” They claimed that it would be “illegal” for the student union to support BDS.

UKLFI sent a letter to the student union stating that: “Students are entitled to support a political campaign as individuals, provided they do so in a lawful way. They are not entitled to have CSU conduct the campaign because it is a charity, and its resources, facilities and time of its staff and officers may only be used to promote its charitable objects…

“There is a fundamental distinction between a campaign to improve the environment for BAME students at City University and a campaign to promote the cause of Palestinians against Israel. The former is in principle within CSU’s charitable objects, the latter is not.”

The union’s next meeting is scheduled for next month and according to a CSU spokesperson they will consider discussion on the points raised by UKLFI in the letter.

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