Every year Jewish students lead conversations on campus about promoting balanced discussions and nuanced debate on the difficult topic of Israel and Palestine. These conversations often take place amidst a concerted campaign of division, hatred and delegitimisation that can occur within student discussions.
Jewish students can be found on all parts of the political spectrum when it comes to Israel and the debate that exists internally, on topics from technological advancements and medical achievements to her treatment of minorities and the peace process, is just as fierce as the external one.
But the diversity of opinion amongst Jewish students doesn’t negate the work they do when they unite to reject the politics of division and hate against Israel and this has been best exemplified by the vast majority of Jewish students who work tirelessly to combat BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions of Israel).
However, in student politics it is no longer enough to just show why BDS is detrimental to the peace process through its emboldening extremists on both sides and its effects on Israeli and Palestinian workers. It is no longer enough to just show why BDS imports a very serious and complex international issue onto UK campuses, divides peers, alienates Jewish students and creates an atmosphere that can and has fuelled anti-Semitism. It is no longer enough to show why BDS refuses to acknowledge historical realities and place the blame solely on Israel’s settlement expansion, forgetting Palestinian rejectionism and terrorism.
The student movement has a proud history of standing up for causes around the world, using the potential in young people to create change on a local, national and international level. Because of this, students today who are leading efforts to support refugees and organise against far-right politics in the US and elsewhere should not shy away from trying to support a solution to the Israel/Palestine conflict.
That is why this year, Jewish students together with many allies around the country will be calling on their fellow students to build Bridges not Boycotts. This two-week campaign will see stalls on campus providing resources on ‘Pathways to Peace’, highlighting key organisations that provide practical alternatives to BDS and educating on key anniversaries in the history of Israel and Palestine. 2017 is a year full of anniversaries so Bridges not Boycotts will be providing information about the first World Zionist Congress in 1897, the Balfour Declaration in 1917, the UN Partition Plan in 1947 and The Six Day War in 1967.
A number of speaker events will also be hosted across the country for all students to be able to engage in discussing the conflict and the surrounding issues. These discussions will also take place online, with students showing their beliefs in finding ‘Pathways to Peace’ and rejecting the aggressive and hateful nature of BDS and Israel Apartheid Week.