Oxford University, the oldest university in the English-speaking world, is an exemplar of academic elite institutions. Tonight, February 27, the student leadership there voted to reject the motion to join in and promote the economic and political warfare anti-Israel effort known as the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement.
Students had been discussing the motion and voted in their own colleges in advance of tonight’s vote. “This 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,” Henry Watson, a student at Magdalen College, a constituent college of Oxford, said. Magdalen College voted to defeat the motion 39-3, earlier this week.
The representatives of the affiliated Oxford colleges, who comprise the Oxford Student Union Organization, met in St. Edmund Hall tonight where the motion was put immediately to a vote. The motion was defeated, 69 – 10. There were 15 abstentions.
Had the motion passed, Oxford would have been required to recommend to Britain’s National Union of Students that they join the global BDS movement against Israel.
A representative of Brasenose College, Eylon Aslan-Levy, said, “Tonight Oxford students showed that their commitment to intellectual freedom is unshakeable. In rejecting calls for a boycott against Israel by a seven-to-one margin, we demonstrated resoundingly that we want Oxford to continue to cooperate with Israeli academics, trade with Israeli businesses and – yes – debate with Israelis in debating societies.”
Aslan-Levy was in the news earlier this week. He was slated to present the opposing side in a debate the topic of which was, “Israel should withdraw immediately from the West Bank.” When he began his response, his opponent, British member of parliament George Galloway, stormed out of the room upon learning Aslan-Levy is Israeli.
“I hope that other British universities will follow Oxford’s lead in standing up against divisive attempts to hinder academic cooperation and progress,” Aslan-Levy said.
About the Author: Lori Lowenthal Marcus is the US correspondent for The Jewish Press. She is a recovered lawyer who previously practiced First Amendment law and taught in Philadelphia-area graduate and law schools.
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