This week (April 3-7), the University of British Columbia (UBC) is faced with an important referendum for Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS). Proposed by the UBC chapter of the social justice group Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights (SPHR), BDS is a call by Palestinian activists for justice and equality. BDS recognizes that Palestinians currently live under an apartheid regime imposed by Israel. Israel is occupying Palestinian land and denying the right of return, a fundamental human right, to Palestinians. The call for BDS is a call to end 70 years of oppression.
BDS is a three-pronged approach calling on the international community to:
· Boycott Israeli and international companies involved in violating Palestinian human rights;
· Divest from Israeli and international companies involved in violating Palestinian human rights; and
· Sanction the state of Israel.
Should the BDS referendum pass at UBC, the student union Alma Mater Society (AMS) could potentially divest from Israeli companies.
BDS has had a challenging but hopeful history at UBC. In 2015, the following referendum question was proposed:
Do you support your student union (AMS) in boycotting products and divesting from companies that support Israeli war crimes, illegal occupation and the oppression of Palestinians?
|UBC's student union supported BDS against South Africa in 1989|
The referendum received a majority of the thousands of votes cast, as a result of a lot of student activism, but unfortunately failed to meet quorum due to pressure from Zionist organizations.
This year, a petition circulated by a UBC Commerce student to stop the referendum prompted the BDS case to go to the BC Supreme Court. On March 30, 2017, BC Supreme Court Justice Frits Verhoeven issued a ruling against the petition. As a result, SPHR was able to proceed with the referendum again this year. The delay caused by the court ruling meant that the referendum could not be proposed during election season and had to be pushed back a month to an online vote. However, the delay did not discourage the Palestinian student activist community. The Supreme Court case set a precedent and re-invigorated the BDS movement.
Why should socialists support BDS? BDS sides with an oppressed people’s struggle against occupation, apartheid and colonialism. Furthermore, Israel is an integral part of the US imperialist system that is occupying and at war with the people of the Levant. BDS also has had a successful history as an effective tool of resistance. Mobilization of the left for BDS in South Africa helped in the defeat of the apartheid regime. BDS of Israel today has developed into a broad-based coalition of social justice groups, student activist groups, labour unions, and anti-racist groups. Defending the Palestinian people is in the interest of all those who believe in justice.
Vote Yes to BDS at UBC and share the page with your networks, towards justice and liberation