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Thursday, 22nd February 2018

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Why NUS should oppose Israel’s assault on Gaza & join the growing global movement in solidarity with Palestine

By Aaron Kiely, NUS National Executive. First published on facebook here.  

Today the National Executive Council of the National Union of Students will be debating Palestine and the student movement’s response to Israel’s ongoing horrific assault on Gaza.

Israel’s murderous attack on Gaza – which at the time of writing has left 1,766 Palestinians killed, 9,320 injured and hundreds of thousands displaced – has according, to the United Nations, involved the deliberate targeting of civilians.
Devastation in Gaza
Amongst the most disturbing examples of Israel deliberately targeting civilians is the bombing of 3 United Nations (UN) schools in the last 10 days that were designated as refugee centers. The UN has said its officials had repeatedly given details of the schools and their refugee population to Israel and that the Israeli army knew the exact co-ordinates of the refuges. Deliberately targeting civilians in this way is a war crime and the dictionary definition of terrorism.

Today’s shelling of another UN school in Gaza, which killed 10 Palestinians, has provoked UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to strongly condemn what he described as a“moral outrage and a criminal act.”

Israel’s military assault on Gaza has outraged the world and British students are no exception. Hundreds of thousands of students and young people have been attending the huge demonstrations, protests, vigils and public meeting taking place across the country in solidarity with Gaza against Israel’s aggression.

In a statement released last week over 100 student leaders -including many NUS Officers, Students’ Union Presidents and Sabbatical Officers– the student movement condemned Israel’s assault, called for an end to the siege on Gaza and urged students to join in boycotting goods from Israel’s illegal settlements and corporations benefiting from the illegal occupation of the West Bank. (The full statement can be read here:

In recent years NUS has moved towards a position of supporting the application of international law, including UN resolutions in relation to Palestine. This has included opposing Israel’s brutal siege on Gaza and opposing the illegal occupation of the West Bank along with the illegal expansion of settlements. NUS has urged Students’ Unions to boycott companies such as Veolia and Eden Springs which have been identified as being complicit with human rights abuses in Palestine.

It is vital that NUS increases solidarity with Palestine by taking further action in response to the united call from Palestinian civil society to boycott, divest and sanction (BDS) Israel in order to put pressure on Israel to end its human rights abuses and violations of international law.NUS proudly joined the BDS movement against Apartheid South Africa in the 1980s which was an incredibly powerful tactic – today we must play our part in what has become the touchstone issue for global justice today.

Today the NUS National Executive has the opportunity to reaffirm our solidarity with Palestine by:

-      Condemning Israel’s military assault on Gaza

-      Condemning Israel’s brutal siege on Gaza andcampaigning for it to be lifted

-      Calling upon the British government cease arming Israel

-      Calling upon the student movement to boycottcompanies and corporations complicit in financing and aiding Israel’s military

-      To ensure that NUS itself does not have links with companies identified as facilitating Israel’s military capacity, human rightsabuses or illegal settlement activity


Why should the NUSNEC support Palestine today?

* Israel has invaded Gaza and launched a massive military assault. At the time of writing 1,766 Palestinians killed, 9,320 injured and hundreds of thousands displaced. The overwhelming majority of those killed and injured have been civilians, including hundreds of children as homes,hospitals, refuges and schools have been deliberately targeted.

According to UNICEF, “Israel deliberately killed 264 Palestinian children in Gaza”.

The UK shares some direct responsibility for Israel’s murderous attack on Gaza. The UK government is directly arming Israel with £180m worth of weapons sold in the period 2008-2012, including F16 fighter jet components, assault rifles, armored vehicles and ammunition. The student movement should demand the British government stop arming Israel.
The Israeli military has directly attacked the right to education in Gaza. UN schools and the Islamic University of Gaza have been amongst the infrastructure Israel has targeted. The student movement should condemn Israel’s assault onGaza.
Palestinian civil society has issued out a united call to the international community to support Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS)of Israel - a call which has been supported worldwide including by Unite the Union – the biggest trade union in Europe.
* Boycotting goods and companies that profit from the illegal occupation of theWest Bank is a practical contribution that the student movement can make in pressuring Israel to stop violating international law and Palestinian human rights by bombing Gaza, laying siege on Gaza, occupying the West Bank and building illegal settlements in the West Bank. The student movement has a proud tradition of opposing injustice across the world – from Apartheid in SouthAfrica to the war on Iraq – and we need to keep up this tradition.
The Palestinians’ right to education has been particularly hard hit by the siege. Basic educational equipment including books, paper,computers, stationary and desks are all in limited supply and Israel routinely cuts off Gaza’s electricity supply. Alongside this, the siege traps 1.7m people in a tiny strip of land with severely limited access to basic supplies such as food, safe water and medicine. The student movement should condemn and demand an end to the siege on Gaza.

Below I share the full text of the motion and amendment I am supporting and voting for tomorrow. The vote is likely to be close so please join the online lobby of the NUS NEC members by tweeting your support from Palestine and for NUS taking a strong stance against Israel’s murderous assault and for taking action by joining the growing international movement for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel’s human rights abuses and violations of international law. The hashtags are #NUS4BDS #NUSNEC.

Check out this useful document to help you lobby your NUS NEC member, produced by Zarah Sultana (NUS NEC):


Motion &amendment: condemn the collective punishment & killing in Gaza

To be discussed and voted on at the NUS NEC on Monday 4August 2014.

NEC Believes:

1. As of writing around 170 Palestinians have been killed in Israeli bombings of the Gaza strip as part of its Operation ‘Protective Edge’,the vast majority are civilians, and Israel has warned of more attacks to come.

2. Many of the Palestinians deaths have come from Israel’s deliberate bombing of their homes, which has been condemned as illegal by the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem. On Saturday 13 of July 21 people were killed when Israel bombed the home of a Palestinians police chief. Others targeted have included special needs care homes, parks and charities.

3. These latest attacks are in the context of the populations of the Gaza strip being subject to a blockade described by the Director of UNRWA Operations as a “Medieval siege” and as a “prison camp” by Prime Minister David Cameron.

4. Israel’s blockade has been described as “collective punishment imposed in clear violation of Israel’s obligations under international humanitarian law” by the International Committee of the Red Cross.

5. Due to long standing effects of the blockade and the recent assault, medical and electricity supplies have run critically low in Gaza, further worsening the humanitarian crisis.

6. Israel has vowed to ignore international pressure and to continue escalating, while the Palestinian government has called on the international community to take ‘serious measures’ to end Israel’s violations.

7. A series of mass demonstrations have taken place across the UK against Israeli attacks, including over 10,000 in London.

NEC Resolves:

1. To condemn Israel’s attacks on Gaza and to support calls for an immediate ceasefire.

2. To condemn the blockade of Gaza and support campaigns for it to be lifted in accordance with international law.

3. To continue to support existing NUS policy on companies like Veolia or Eden Springs which have been identified as being complicit in human rights abuses in Israel/Palestine.


Add amendment:

1. Within two weeks of launching Operation ‘Protective Edge’, the Israeli army has killed over 630 Palestinians, injured over 3800 and displaced over 118,000 with over 80% of deaths being civilians.

2. The Israeli army stands accused of using illegal weapons including white phosphorus bombs and DIME (Dense Inert Metal Explosive) weapons on one of the most densely-populated regions of the world, and with targets consisting mainly of civilians.

3. This disregard for human rights and international law stands consist with Israel’s conduct during previous assaults on Gaza,including 2008/09’s ‘Cast Lead’ and 2012’s ‘Pillar of Defence’.

4. That extensive funding and military aid to Israel from Western countries helps perpetuate Israel’s abuses relieves the financial pressure of warfare; the UK government also facilitates heavy arms trading and co-operation with Israel, marking their complicity in this and previous massacres.

5. That with leading Israeli politicians calling for effective genocide, ethnic cleansing of, and war crimes against Palestinians, appealing to their political establishment on a purely moral basis would be naïve.

6. That with the British government unwilling to even condemn Israel for this assault, it is now incumbent upon the public and civil institutions to exert economic and political pressure to convince Israel to abide by international law.

7. That since the launch of the assault other countries have taken substantive action, such as Chile having suspended trade talks with Israel.

8. There is precedent for economic leverage against Israeli crimes, with a further 12 EU countries recently following the UK’s earlier move in issuing explicit warnings to investors against doing business with Israeli settlements due to their contravention of international law.

9. NUS has previously affirmed active opposition to companies complicit in human rights abuses in Israel/Palestine as negatively impacting on chances for a sustainable and just settlement.

10. NUS Black Students’ Campaign, NUS London and NUS Scotland have voted to support Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against companies and products supporting Israeli aggression and occupation.

Add Resolves:

1. To call on the British government to condemn Israel’s current assault on Gaza, cease aid and funding to Israel, impose an arms embargo against Israel, and to demand a ceasefire brokered between legitimate Israeli and Palestinian representatives.

2. To issue a call to our membership to boycott companies and corporations complicit in financing and aiding Israel’s military, including G4S and Hewlett Packard.

3. To provide information and resources to support student unions and student organisations campaigning for boycott and divestment of companies identified as supporting Israel materially, economically, militarily,and/or as helping maintain the illegal Israeli settlements.

4. To conduct an internal audit of NUS services, products and departments to ensure they do not, as far as is practical, employ or work with companies identified as facilitating Israel’s military capacity, human rights abuses or illegal settlement activity, and actively work to cut ties with those that do.

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