Attempt to boycott Israel stirs commotion amongst Oxford student voters

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Oxford University’s Student Union (OUSU) will cast their votes Wednesday on whether to boycott goods from Israel after a tense week which witnessed hate mail and accusation of racism, a local newspaper reported Saturday.

Both opponent and supporter of the motion to boycott Israel, its companies and institutions have received threatening emails, The Guardian newspaper said.
According to the paper, the threats have compelled the seconder of the motion to withdraw his support while the proposer requested not to publicly disclose her identity for security reasons.

Advocates of the motion called for rejecting Israeli exports that include fruits, vegetables and cosmetics in protest against Israel’s ill treatment of the Palestinians, including the Jewish state’s hindrance to establish a Palestinian state.

The date for the final motion, which would be tabled at the National Union of Students conference in Sheffield, has been pushed to April, as the majority of students failed to attend the debate over the issue.

George Galloway, MP for Bradford West, walked out of a debate at Christ Church College last Wednesday when discussing the motion.

Galloway, a known supporter of Palestinians, delivered a speech condemning Israel but he was interrupted by Eylon Aslan-Levy, a student at Brasenose College.

“You said ‘we.’ Are you an Israeli?” Galloway asked. When Aslan-Levy said he was, Galloway walked out. “I don’t recognize Israel and I don't debate with Israelis,” he said, to gasps of surprise and mutters of “racism.”

Observing the uneasy campus atmosphere, Henry Watson from the Magdalen College told the paper that the boycott goes against everything the university stands for. “The idea that we are not going to read your books or articles or hear your arguments on the basis of your nationality is ridiculous,” he said.

Boycott campaigns against Israel are not uncommon in Britain.

On April 2012, UK’s fifth largest food retailer, the Co-operative Group, has become the first major European supermarket to halt trade with companies that export crops from illegal Israeli settlements.

The retail group described its measure as an extension of its existing policy to halt sourcing produce from illegal settlements seized from the Palestinian territories in the West Bank.

In reaction to such campaigns, Israel passed a law in 2011 to sue those that call for economic, cultural or academic boycotts against Israel, its institutions or areas under its control. The law can also allow Israel’s minister of finance to deny tax benefits to an organization promoting a boycott.

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