In reaction, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded by smearing the millions-strong organization as supporters of Islamic State, the violent extremist group also known as ISIS or ISIL.
“In a 19-4 vote with one abstention, the confederation of 600 student unions across the United Kingdom passed the pro-BDS proposal on Tuesday at a meeting of its National Executive Council,” according to JTA.
The NUS press office could not immediately provide The Electronic Intifada with an official copy of the resolution, but said it would be posted on its website in coming days.
“This is less than a year after they refused to support a boycott of ISIS,” Netanyahu said in reaction to the vote, during a meeting with Canada’s foreign minister.
“They boycott Israel but they refuse to boycott ISIS. That tells you everything you want to know about the BDS movement. They condemn Israel and do not condemn ISIS,” the Israeli prime minister alleged.
Netanyahu repeated the same claim on Twitter:
In fact, the NUS national executive council did adopt a resolution at its 3 December 2014 meeting that condemns ISIS “as a reactionary terrorist organization that carries out atrocities” against people of the regions where it operates.
The previous September, the executive had rejected a motion on Kurdish solidarity that contained similar language, but its decision had nothing to do with the condemnation of ISIS whatsoever.
As NUS national executive council member Zarah Sultana explained in a December article for The Huffington Post, she and her colleagues deemed the resolution flawed because it encouraged students to spy on each other.
“In a climate where Muslim communities and student groups are already under heavy scrutiny and subject to targeted surveillance by the Home Office, police, universities, healthcare sector and more – this would only help legitimize further clampdowns and prejudice against Muslims,” Sultana wrote.
She added: “The motion was voted down on the condition that it would be re-written and brought back to the next National Executive Council meeting, maintaining the spirit of support for the Kurdish people, but free of any of those problematic elements.”
That is precisely what happened, and the motion passed.
But as part of its escalating campaign to smear supporters of Palestinian rights, Israel is using this procedural history to advance the smear that the NUS are, in effect, ISIS supporters.
“There’s something very amusing about the government of one of the world’s ‘superpowers’ falling over itself to slander, spread lies and condemn a student organization for boycotting it,” Sultana, who is also on the national committee of the NUS Black Students’ Campaign, told The Electronic Intifada today.
“But this only confirms what is increasingly becoming apparent to the rest of the world: that Israel is facing a crisis in its ability to justify apartheid, and that it’s reaching an endgame.”
Sultana also responded to Israel’s smears on Twitter:
The NUS has long adopted positions in support of Palestinian rights. Last August, amid Israel’s assault on Gaza that killed more than 2,200 Palestinians, the union’s national executive council called for an arms embargo on Israel and urged its seven million members to boycott “corporations complicit in financing and aiding Israel’s military, including G4S and Hewlett Packard.”
The motion that passed last summer “was a massive breakthrough, and the vote this week reaffirms that support, cements it as NUS policy for the next three years, but also signals that the argument for BDS has become normalized within the student movement, as ‘common sense solidarity,’” Sultana told The Electronic Intifada.
“So in that sense this vote surpasses any form of symbolic win and represents a long battle being won, with credit due to years of work by pro-Palestine activists on the ground.”
“The fight to get NUS to endorse the BDS movement would not have happened without the NUS Black Students’ Campaign taking a lead on that cause within NUS for many years,” Sultana added.