Queen Mary, University of London Students’ Union decided on Thursday to boycott G4S and Veolia for the companies’ complicity in the denial of Palestinian human rights. A large majority of the 515 students in attendance at the Annual Members’ Meeting voted in favour of the motion.
QMUL currently has contracts with both companies. The motion resolves to “strongly urge QMUL to allow its contracts with G4S and Veolia to expire” on account of their activities which facilitate the denial of Palestinian human rights.
The vote followed a lively debate. Advocates of the motion talked about the ways in which Israeli military occupation gravely violates Palestinian human rights. Sam Playle, who proposed the motion, declared “The brutal occupation can only continue because it continues to receive international support. Corporate complicity in the denial of human rights must not be tolerated on our campuses.” One detractor raised qualms about the reliability of a 2012 report by a delegation of UK lawyers about Palestinian children in Israeli military custody, which had been cited.
Students’ Union President Babatunde Williams, also spoke in favour of the motion, arguing “Queen Mary recognises that it needs to take a stance on ethical partnerships hence why high level discussions have taken place in regards to an ethical partners policy. However, if it wishes to send a quick message that we are different from the LSE and their “omnishambles” of a moral compass then what better way than to remove G4S and Veolia from our campuses.”
Earlier campaigns at Queen Mary had been less successful. Ellen Tansey, a student who campaigned for the boycott, remarked “last year we had a motion dismissed by the Students’ Union council, so to win so decisively in the most democratic forum available was fantastic. Our success was thanks to a grassroots campaign by a number of societies and individual students raising awareness of Israeli apartheid on campus, and persuading their friends to come out and vote.”
The motion was conceived as a response to the Palestinian call for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) in defence of Palestinian human rights. Aamna Mohdin, the science faculty representative who seconded the motion, said “Queen Mary made an excellent decision by supporting BDS and kicking G4S and Veolia of our campus! No one should be working with companies involved in Israeli war crimes. This is just the first step, and I hope many universities follow suit.”
Ozzy Amir, welfare representative in the Students’ Union, commented “I’m really pleased that this motion passed and that we are putting pressure on our university to source more ethical companies that aren’t complicit in the violation of human rights and international law abroad.”
G4S is a British-Danish private security company which equips Israeli prisons where Palestinians, including children and MPs, are incarcerated, sometimes indefinitely without trial and in conditions which amount to torture. G4S also equips checkpoints on Israel’s apartheid wall, which the International Court of Justice has ruled to be illegal.
Veolia is a French infrastructure company which runs transport links between Israel and the West Bank settlements which are illegal under international law, using ‘apartheid roads’ where Palestinians are banned. Veolia also operates Tovlan landfill, a site in the West Bank where Israeli waste is dumped.
Originally published on the campaign blog here: