King's University College Students' Council approved a referendum question asking the affiliate college's students if they would endorse the Boycott, Divest and Sanction movement in the upcoming elections.
The referendum will be held alongside the upcoming KUCSC elections in early 2017. The motion to approve the BDS motion was approved in last April but the exact wording of the question was decided last week.
The referendum question will ask: “As a King’s student, should the KUCSC endorse the BDS movement by lobbying the King’s administration to boycott products and divest from companies in violation of international law?”
The BDS movement calls on individuals, institutions, and private companies to increase economic and political pressure on Israel.
According to the campaign’s website, the movement works to, “end international support for Israel’s oppression of Palestinians and pressure Israel to comply with international law.”
At its most recent student council meeting, KUCSC spent two hours deliberating over the wording of the referendum question, according to KUCSC president Nate Little.
Council eventually voted unanimously on the current wording of the referendum question, with some abstentions.
Anna Badillo, social justice and peace studies representative, seconded the motion for the referendum. She noted that most of the opposition within council was not towards the referendum itself but geared towards the wording of the question.
“I’m very supportive of the referendum. I hope that the King's community decides to vote in favour of it, if not I am okay with that too. I think that it just speaks volumes the face that we’re even having a referendum, especially [since] it is a very important year in 2017,” said Badillo. “Its 50 years since the occupation began in 1967 and its 70 years since the 1947 Partition Plan by the UN, so I think this year is very important for the movement itself.”
Campaigning for the referendum will officially kick off alongside the beginning of the elections campaign in January 2017.
Marie Rioux, fourth-year King’s student in political science and justice and peace studies, also spoke in favour of the referendum. She compares this BDS movement to the South African anti-apartheid struggle.
"Campuses are a place to be bringing forward the most progressive of academic discourse and the most progressive of human rights," said Rioux. "Mandela came to North America for the first time and before he visited the President he visited UC Berkeley, because he knew that students are always going to be a huge part of pushing forward these changes.”
Israel On Campus vice-president and vice president finance, Dan Poliwoda, spoke out against the referendum.
“Specifically, what is dangerous about the BDS movement, not to mention the stuff that happens on campus, but specifically the BDS movement seeks to demonize an entire people,” said Poliwoda.
“Not just certain policy makers or a governmental organization or the government, it seeks to demonize the Israeli people — a nation which we see, and personally I see, as not just and conducive to creating a not safe environment for people who identify as Jews and for people who identify as Israelis.”
Little commented that both for-BDS and against-BDS interest groups have stepped forward to take part in the campaign. The official announcement won’t take place until the beginning of the campaign in January.
“I have the utmost hope that King's students will act respectively,” Little said.
Little added that while he's not taking a stance on the BDS issue, he believes the topic can be addressed in an academic setting and the referendum question put forward by the KUCSC allows for that discussion.
A two-day conference, hosted by Social Justice and Peace Studies, and Religious Studies professors, will be held on King's campus on October 24 and 25 where speakers will speak about the Israeli and Palestinian conflict.
Students are being encouraged to attend the event in order to educate themselves on the issue.
Have an opinion on the issue? Submit a letter to the editor.