No BDS Policy Expected from KSA in the Near Future
News / June 14, 2017
Despite referendums at UBC and SFU, the KSA is not taking a stance on BDS
Joseph Keller, Web Editor
Recent discussions from at UBC and SFU about the possibility of endorsing the controversial Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement have stirred debate at the Kwantlen Student Association about potentially taking an official position.
The topic was brought up at a meeting of the Standing Committee on University Affairs on April 20, and although the KSA has no plans to put a policy to a vote, the BDS movement has become a subject of interest for some KSA Councillors.
“BDS is definitely something that I would like to bring to the table and talk about,” says KSA Mature Students Representative and Standing Committee on University Affairs chairperson Zahid Dossa.
Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions is a global movement that aims to put political and economic pressure on the state of Israel in response to Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory and to support the rights of Palestinian people through non-violent means. Due to the movement’s differential treatment of the state of Israel, BDS has been condemned by some organisations as antisemitic. Supporters of BDS argue that the movement is only concerned with the actions and policies of Israel in regards to human rights.
“For those who are concerned with respecting, protecting, promoting human rights, it’s a way of helping Palestinians put on that economic and political pressure against Israeli occupation and aiming to end the occupation of Palestine,” says Dossa. “The movement stands for freedom, justice, and equality.”
Dossa says that he first brought up the possibility of a KSA BDS policy at the KSA annual general meeting this past March. Afterwards he was approached by a handful of KPU students in support of such a policy.
“There’s definitely an interest in having a conversation on it,” he says.
In April, the UBC Alma Mater Society held a referendum on adopting BDS policy that was defeated by a narrow 52 per cent. The topic stirred heated debate on the UBS campus leading up to the referendum, with opponents of the movement arguing that the policy would have made Jewish students on campus feel unsafe, according to an op-ed published by The Ubyssey in March.
“I applaud students at UBC who want to stand up for the rights of the oppressed, give a voice to the voiceless and promote justice across the globe,” writes Koby Michaels in the March 28 Ubyssey op-ed. “However, BDS is not the answer. It will bring bigotry, hatred and even violence to UBC.”
A similar referendum by the SFU Teaching Support Staff Union failed recently by just 51 per cent. The policy would have seen the union actively supporting and participating in BDS and, as with the UBC referendum, the topic generated controversy at SFU. An open letter was circulated urging the union to vote “no” to the referendum and was signed by dozens of members of the SFU community.
Both referendums contributed to the discussion regarding BDS at the April 20 meeting of the KSA Standing Committee on University Affairs. Although this discussion was purely hypothetical, Dossa says that there is a definite possibility of more serious discussion in the future. He says he plans to reach out to SFU and UBC student union officials to discuss their experiences attempting to enact BDS policy.
“I don’t foresee a [KSA] policy being written any time soon because, especially when you look at what’s happened at UBC and SFU, it’s something that requires a lot of discussion with students,” says Dossa.