The overwhelming attendance for this motion, proposed by the LSESU Palestine Society, shocked everyone including the UGM organisers, and proved that debate and activism are alive and well at LSE. Growing awareness of Israel's systematic discrimination against its Palestinian citizens, colonial settler regime in the West Bank, and brutal siege of the Gaza Strip motivated many LSE students of all backgrounds to take a stand for justice, equality, and human rights.
As LSE student, Ziyaad Lunat, said, "Apartheid in South Africa was defeated when ordinary people around the world, including many LSE students, stopped believing the South African government's propaganda and campaigned for universities to divest from its racist regime. Prominent South Africans including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, former President Nelson Mandela, UN Special Rapporteur John Duggard, and Minister of Intelligence Ronnie Kasrils note that Israel has maintained a similar apartheid regime in the Occupied Palestinian Territories for 40 years.”
“It is time for us to call Israeli apartheid by its name and press our universities to divest and stop funding it. Together, students can contribute to making apartheid history once and for all.
Those opposing the motion spread misinformation about its contents (see attachment for the motion's full text) in the period leading up to the vote and at the UGM itself, claiming that the motion labelled individual Jewish or Israeli students 'racists'. In fact, the motion referred only to discriminatory Israeli laws, policies, and government actions (all fully documented), and explicitly called on the LSESU to support Jewish and Israeli organisations that campaign against apartheid and racism in Israel. Although many students from all backgrounds saw through this smear campaign against the motion, the final vote was 285 in favour to 292 against.
Irregularities in the voting procedure, including the presence of non-LSE students at the UGM and the possibility that they may have voted, and the fact that tens of students were turned away from the UGM for lack of space, has cast doubt on the validity of the final vote. This led to the Constitution and Steering Committee ruling the vote invalid yesterday, Tuesday 29th of January 2008 and a revote or resubmission of the motion is likely in the coming weeks.
Contact: Ziyaad Lunat
Deborah Hyams and James Caspell