McMaster students vote to support BDS boycott campaign

McMaster University’s student union voted Monday in support of the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement that aims to put economic and political pressure on Israel.

BDS movement vote passes at student assembly Monday

Over 600 students voted during a McMaster Students Union (MSU) general assembly for the union to join a pro-Palestinian movement called BDS — boycott, divestment and sanctions. (Terry Asma/CBC)

McMaster University’s student union voted in support of the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement that aims to put economic and political pressure on Israel over issues related to the occupied territories and Palestinian people.

Students at the student union’s annual general assembly voted to endorse the BDS campaign where 622 people voted for the resolution and 28 voted against.

According to a BDS committee press release, some pro-Israel students walked out of the meeting just before the vote to “try to reduce the attendance at the general assembly below the 632-member quorum.”

A similar vote happened in March of last year, but the assembly didn’t have quorum, making it a non-binding vote.

“We will continue to work such that BDS becomes a way of life at McMaster University, using this non-violent tactic to help end the Occupation and bring about positive changes for the Palestinian people,” the BDS committee said in a press release.

BDS is a global campaign designed to pressure Israel to end its “occupation and colonization of all Arab lands,” says the website for the BDS movement. It also calls on Israel to recognize the rights of Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel, and to “respect and protect the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes.”

BDS supporters call it a human rights movement akin to the fight against South African apartheid. Those against BDS say it aims to weaken and delegitimize Israel.

In an opinion piece in McMaster’s student newspaper The Silhouette, Sean Haber of McMaster Israel on Campus denounced the BDS movement.

“By rejecting BDS, we can move forward with integrity as a community and make McMaster a model for civil discourse; a campus where all students – regardless of their political belief and national origin – are free to learn, debate, discuss and grow,” Haber wrote.

“Unfortunately, at McMaster and elsewhere, it has become incredibly clear that BDS not only silences opposition, but also shuts down the debate.”

York University students voted in favour of BDS in 2013. University of Windsor students also voted for it in a referendum last year.