The British National Union of Students voted to censure its president Megan Dunn on Monday for failing to fully implement the organization's policy on boycotting Israel. Dunn, who was elected as president in April this year, accepted a sponsorship deal for the NUS annual 2015 awards ceremony with Coca Cola.
Coca Cola has been one of the biggest targets of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement because its local Israeli subsidiary has factories in areas over the Green Line. Dunn describes herself as a "drinker of diet coke" in her Twitter bio.
The NUS National Executive Committee voted 20 in favor, 14 opposed and 2 abstentions to censure Dunn and called on her to issue an apology. Some representatives boycotted the organization's annual awards event in protest - but calls to call off the event failed and the ceremony was held as planned earlier this month.
The NUS officially endorsed a boycott of Israel last August, and reaffirmed it in June. A second motion on how to go about boycotting Coca Cola was not discussed due to time constraints, but a vote on it will be held later.
The motion approved by the NUS stated: “To formally censure Megan Dunn, to mandate the NUS president and vice-president Richard Brooks to publish a formal apology stating that it was a mistake to accept Coca Cola's sponsorship.”
The NUS officially explained its position on Coca Cola and the boycott, saying: "The BDS policy is to ensure that, as far as is practical, NUS does not employ or work with companies identified as facilitating Israel's military capacity, human rights abuses or illegal settlement activity, and to actively work to cut ties with those that do. In aiming to ensure we meet this policy, NUS went to the official BDS movement to form our interpretation."
The NUS officers supporting the motion against Dunn said it was the union’s responsibility to ensure the boycott against Israel was implemented.
“There is thus a clear, direct line of accountability whereby Coca Cola, through its operations in Israel, is active within illegally occupied territory, in the process keeping occupation a viable exercise for the Israeli state.
However, BDS remains divisive, with Russell Langer of the Union of Jewish Students tweeting tonight that “Cases like this further Jewish Students’ concern that BDS policies can be implemented in ways that would discriminate against them”.
On Monday, British Prime Minister David Cameron also attacked the NUS, saying the organization had shamed itself by working with CAGE, the advocacy group that had previously been accused of being apologists for ISIS and Jihadi John, reported the Huffington Post UK.
"And while I am it, I want to say something to the National Union of Students. When you choose to ally yourselves with an organization like CAGE, which called Jihadi John a ‘beautiful young man’ and told people to 'support the jihad' in Iraq and Afghanistan it really does, in my opinion, shame your organization and your noble history of campaigning for justice," said Cameron.
The Executive Committee also voted at the meeting to support a major demonstration against austerity and in favor of free education, reversing a decision from a month ago. Many NUS branches feared an outbreak of violence at the protest events.