When voting “yes” or “no” to the BDS referendum, students have to choose between two very divisive arguments, with the cases behind both answers diverging pretty heavily on what its effects will be. In this article, we’ll be delving into some of the changes that students can expect to see (or not see) if the question passes in today’s vote.
The referendum question being put forward is as follows: “Do you support your student union (AMS) in boycotting products and divesting from companies that support Israeli war crimes, illegal occupation and the oppression of Palestinians?”
The AMS, which has taken no stance on the referendum, does not expect it to lead to any change if passed.
“My understanding of this question is that it intends to spark a conversation and debate instead of changing any current operations or contracts with the AMS,” said AMS President Ava Nasiri. She also emphasized that the AMS does not have any contracts that would be impacted by the question.
“We are still using Windows. If there was a need for a second Starbucks within a hundred-metre radius of the one that is going to be opened in six months in the Old Sub, [we could do that],” said Nasiri. “That isn’t the spirit behind the question that has been conveyed to the AMS.”
The Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights group (SPHR), which put forward the petition that led to the referendum, agree that they do not expect to see current contracts end, but note that they expect to see a rise in activism on campus.
“It’s our hope that it will serve as a … catalyst for continuing organization and resistance on campus,” said Jordan Buffie, SPHR’s president.
They also want the referendum to change the language surrounding discussion of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on campus.
“One of [the referendum’s] goals is to change the normal parameters of debate surrounding this issue,” said Buffie. “We want to take them beyond the bogus language on parity between the occupied Palestinians and the occupying Israeli state. We want to introduce the language of settler colonialism, of apartheid, of Palestinian resistance in a grassroots way.”
A statement provided to The Ubyssey by the Vote No Campaign reflects concern for these potential changes.
“BDS fuels conflict and opposes cooperation, coexistence and dialogue,” read the statement. “The Vote No side believes in elevating both Palestinian and Israeli human rights, and contributing to peaceful and respectful initiatives that bring us together.”
They also worry that the passing of the referendum could lead to the AMS not being able to partner with companies that currently employ students, provide them with scholarship opportunities or grant them access to healthcare plans.
At this point, Nasiri does not consider this last point a concern, but does hope that the students and groups involved abide by the AMS’s Respectful Environment Policy when discussing the referendum.
“The content of [the policy] is very straightforward and basically part of the principles of being a good person ... don’t verbally or physically harass another student ... don’t infringe on somebody’s freedom of expression,” she said.
Referendum results will be announced at approximately 7 p.m. today on the AMS website and Facebook page.