UCL student campaigners won a “tremendous victory” for human rights this week, when their student union passed a BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) motion. The motion was passed with a 67% majority, after a “riveting” debate at a UCL student union council meeting.
The Union is now mandated to cut ties with corporate entities directly contributing to and supporting the illegal occupation of the Palestinian territories by the Israeli state, and to lobby the university to do the same. This includes campaigning for the university to break ties with arms companies that supply Israel or work with Israeli arms companies.
The motion includes an obligation for the student union to “work with students to publish a report on academic, corporate and economic links between the university and companies or institutions that participate in or are complicit in Israeli violations of international law”. Some such links, including links with arms companies that supply Israel, are already known.
A few years ago students at UCL discovered that their university had nearly £1 million invested in arms company Cobham, who are thought to have supplied the Israeli Defense Force. A successful student-led divestment campaign meant the university dropped it’s shares in Cobham.
But UCL still supports arms companies complicit in Israel’s attacks on Palestinian people. A Freedom of Information request made to the university earlier this year revealed that the university has been doing research for several arms companies known to supply Israel or collaborate with Israeli arms companies, including Thales, BAE Systems, Qioptik, and Lockheed Martin.
UCLU is one in a growing list of student unions to adopt BDS or anti-arms trade policies.
One of the UCL activists said of the win “It’s amazing that the university I go to is finally taking a stance in the horrible injustice that’s happening in Palestine. We’ve worked hard to perfect this motion, and I’m so glad the union stood by the side of justice and voted in favour of it. Now that the tides are changing, and the pressure is mounting, justice doesn’t seem like a fairy tale any more.”