Student leaders at the UK’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) are set to call on the university to cut its academic links with Israeli institutions in a show of support for the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.
SOAS student union officials will make their case at a meeting of the school’s governing body on Friday and will point to the result of a ballot of students, academics, and staff in February, in which 73 percent voted in favour of a boycott of Israeli universities.
“There has been no democratic mandate like this in the university’s history. The SOAS community has clearly demonstrated and they cannot ignore it,” Georgie Robertson, a co-president of the student union, which organised the referendum, told Al Jazeera.
But the issue has stirred up controversy and divisions on campus, with anti-BDS campaigners highlighting low turnout and making claims that they were subjected to harassment and intimidation during the campaign.
“I don’t think they were expecting the resistance it got,” Richard Galber, a law student who campaigned against BDS, told Al Jazeera.
“We never expected to win but in the end less than a third of people voted and we got 25 percent of the vote which, at SOAS of all places, I think is quite a victory.”
London-based SOAS is considered a world-leading institution for the study of Middle Eastern affairs, and is home to research centres for both Palestinian and Israeli studies.
– Read more: Israeli-Palestinian conflict moves to UK campus – Al Jazeera