At UJS Conference 2017 many exciting motions were passed, including to ensure observant students' needs are accommodated surrounding timetabling, exams and deadlines; combatting online harassment; raising awareness of Jewish genetic diseases; and campaigning to reopen the Dubs amendment.
Some motions were referred to our National Council which met on 7th February and was live broadcast here. Now that we have concluded this most recent round of policy discussions, we wanted to share some further information on some motions that were more closely contested or have raised further questions.
As UJS president, it’s part of my role to interpret and implement policy, considering how each policy comes together with our constitution, core values and current broader policy. I want to take this opportunity to provide some clarity as to how this will occur for the following motions.
It is UJS’ belief that resolves 1 of motion UJ22 ‘UJS should support and campaign for non-violent resolutions to the Israeli occupation’ can be implemented in the context of the proactive and diligent work we already carry out to bring about a peaceful resolution to the conflict. This is no more evident than the evolution of our Bridges not Boycotts campaign which has seen tremendous engagement of over 12,000 students across the UK in the past 2 years (2016-2018). The campaign continues to promote dialogue and cooperation, instead of violence, and we remain firmly committed to combating BDS, as mandated regularly by Jewish students and ongoing UJS policy.
We have existing policy to support a 2 state-solution which is internationally recognised and includes concessions from both sides. We will continue to call out Palestinian incitement and terror, recognising that doing so is a critical part of using our voice to help bring about the end of the conflict. Nevertheless, this particular motion and the support it received highlighted that Jewish students are also concerned about the current reality facing Palestinian civilians. It is clear there is a call to redress the security and social considerations that have made a viable and autonomous Palestinian state, rather than the current mixed and shared control in areas A, B and C, a reality as part of achieving Two States for Two Peoples. This motion raises an important part of the conflict, and its focus will be added to our broader policy and work that appreciate the many factors of this complex conflict.
With regards to motion UJ24, calling for the inclusion of non-Zionist anti-Zionist and ‘Zi-curious’ Jewish students, we note that students who hold these views have often informed UJS they’re made to feel unwelcome in J-Socs and other Jewish spaces. This motion gained support from many students who are Zionist yet understand J-Soc and UJS activity and educational discussions can and should allow space for dissenting views, even if they are held by a very small proportion of our membership.
As part of this motion’s implementation to have specific points of contact for non-Zionist or anti-Zionist Jewish students, we have nominated myself for general queries or raising concerns, and Rebecca Filer for campaigns related contact.
This motion focused on the inclusion of a small minority within our diverse and dynamic union. This policy will be implemented within the context of being a union led this year and next by Presidents elected in votes where over 90% of students supported Zionist candidates. This policy will be added to current policy governing our work alongside our constitution, core values – one of which being Israel engagement – and many other policies on Israel education and campaigns – including clearly and consistently mandated policy to combat BDS and promote a Two State Solution.
The motion resolved that non-Zionist/anti-Zionist viewpoints should be represented at “all UJS events discussing Israel”. This one motion needs to be balanced alongside plenty of other relevant UJS policy, such as our core value on Israel Engagement and previous policy to provide education on the history, people, culture and land of Israel – distinct from Zionism and the State of Israel. Where discussions on Israel are educational and in the context of Jewish identity, if it would not usually address Zionism or Zionist viewpoints, we will not specifically profile non-Zionist or anti-Zionist viewpoints. Where discussions on Israel explore Zionism or are specifically including Zionist viewpoints, we will also ensure, as this motion mandates, that non-Zionist/anti-Zionist viewpoints are included.
In implementing motion CA1, we will build on the foundation of existing UJS policy to no platform groups or individuals who insight violence against Jewish students, ensuring we work closely with campus partners to defend Jewish students from threats of violence including Holocaust deniers who are inciting violence.
With regards to motion CA6, we will ensure that UJS does not associate with “organisations who hold extremist beliefs, a far-right ideology, homophobic attitudes, are racist or who are discriminatory based on religious grounds”. As the motion resolves, we will take guidance from communal bodies such as the democratically representative Board of Deputies and CST as to which organisations these may be.
UJS has been and will continue to be at the forefront of the student movement’s and university sector’s efforts to promote and protect free speech and speech free from hate. Broadly UJS has understood combating Hate Speech to be focused on those inciting violence or hatred and this will inform much of how we implement this policy. We have never been associated and never would associate with groups espousing extremist views. As part of being a cross-communal union we recognise that when it comes to religious understandings of some issues such as gender and sexuality, we need to be sensitive to upholding freedom of religion and the religious diversity of our members and community.
At UJS Conference 2017, UJS reaffirmed its commitment to work with CST as the port of call on campus in dealing with antisemitism, and as such it is deemed wholly appropriate to take their guidance on this matter.
A full outline of all current UJS policy from the past three years can be found below.