Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Cambridge Students Vote to Dump Veolia

A student referendum calling on Cambridge University to sever ties with Veolia due to its complicity in Israeli human rights abuses passes with 58% of the vote. Read blogger Ben White's article on the vote, the opposition's smear tactics, and what the vote means in the fight against Veolia at Cambridge.

Want to start a Dump Veolia campaign in your area? Check out the excellent resources at Global Exchange and join the growing movement to hold Veolia accountable for its complicity in violating international law!

From the Cambridge Bin Veolia campaign:

58% of students vote to break contract with company implicated in Israeli human rights abuses

Students at Cambridge have voted to call on the University to cut ties with a company implicated in Israeli human rights abuses.

The vote calls on CUSU (Cambridge University Students Union) to campaign to have the University cut ties with Veolia, a company involved in infrastructure projects in Israeli settlements, and employed by the University on a waste disposal contract. The referendum, which closed yesterday, passed with a majority of 58% to 41%: there were 898 votes yes, 637 votes no, and 21 ballots spoilt. While a strong majority was in support, the referendum was inquorate: 7.2% of the student body voted, short of the 10% required.

Students involved in the campaign pledged to continue the campaign to ensure that Veolia’s contract, which expires in September 2012, is not renewed.

As previously reported on the blog, student campaigners had been boosted in the lead up to the referendum with letters of support from Palestinian trade unionists and students, as well as a list of Cambridge academics.

While voter participation was too low to make the motion automatically become CUSU policy, the students behind the push to cut the University’s ties with Veolia are encouraged:

Daniel Benjamin, a student involved in the campaign, said: “With this vote, Cambridge students make a strong statement against Veolia’s criminal actions in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. We won’t stop fighting until Veolia is off campus, but this vote itself is a fantastic show of support in the broader campaign for Palestinian human rights through boycott, divestment, and sanctions against Israeli companies and institutions.”

Owen Holland, a student involved in the campaign, said: “The impressive turnout shows significant student support for the campaign. We are concerned with a number of irregularities in the vote, such as lies in the ‘no’ flysheet that went uncorrected, a lack of ballot boxes in colleges, and a number of students who found themselves unable to vote online. Though the referendum did not meet the threshold to become CUSU policy, we will be campaigning to have CUSU adopt it anyway and push the University to drop its contract with Veolia.

The “lies” of the ‘No’ campaign, referred to by Owen Holland, can be read here (and they are rebutted here). The ‘No’ flysheet prepared by members of the Cambridge University Jewish Society described “the wider BDS movement” as “antisemitic”, even if the motion in question “is not explicitly” so. Despite such smear tactics, the majority of Cambridge students who voted backed the call for the University to cancel its contract with Veolia, and the campaign continues.