Commenting on the announcement, Sir Eric Pickles said:
“The decision of the National Union of Students to boycott Israel and promote the hardline BDS movement is utterly deplorable. This boycott is a major infringement on the right to free speech and threatens the extraordinary academic, scientific, business, and cultural cooperation between Britain and Israel. It also threatens British jobs. The infiltration of the anti-peace agenda of BDS on British campuses will create an unacceptable atmosphere of intimidation for Israeli and Jewish students in the UK. The British Government should condemn this absurd decision and reiterate its strong opposition to boycotts of a key democratic ally in an unstable region”.
The NUS’ National Executive Council voted on Tuesday to approve a boycott of Israel by 19 votes for, 12 against, with three abstentions.
The vote sees the NUS formally align itself with the aims of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, whose campaign has actively sought to delegitimise Israel since 2005.
BDS is spearheaded by outspoken anti-Israel activists who have called on companies to cease business with Israel. The movement has also increasingly campaigned for academic and cultural boycotts on Israel, with several high-profile boycott incidents in recent years taking place in the UK.
Deputy British Ambassador to Israel, Dr. Rob Dixon, added his voice to those condemning the NUS: “We are deeply committed to promoting the UK’s trade and business ties with Israel, as part the flourishing partnership between the two countries. The reality is one of rapidly strengthening links between British and Israeli universities in science and academic cooperation.
“As David Cameron has said, the UK Government will never allow those who want to boycott Israel to shut down 60 years’ worth of vibrant exchange and partnership that does so much to make both our countries stronger”, the statement added.