Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday criticized the largest student union in Britain for passing a motion to boycott Israel — less than a year after it refused to condemn the Islamic State group on the grounds that it would be “Islamophobic.”
“ISIS tramples human rights to the dust. It burns people alive in cages, and the national student groups in Britain refuse to boycott ISIS and have boycotted Israel,” Netanyahu said, using an acronym for the militant group that's claimed large parts of Iraq and Syria.
The National Union of Students Tuesday voted to condemn Israel for its “military presence in the West Bank and Gaza”; to align itself with the boycott, divestment and sanctions, or BDS, movement against Israel; and to call on the British parliament to stop arms sales to Israel, the Times of Israel reported.
In October, the student group rejected a call to condemn the Islamic State after one of the student leaders said it would be “justification for war and blatant Islamophobia.”
The Independent reported last year that the anti-Islamic State motion was rejected by members of the student council led by black students’ officer Malia Bouattia, who was quoted as saying, “We recognize that condemnation of ISIS appears to have become a justification for war and blatant Islamophobia.”
Netanyahu on Wednesday accused the boycott Israel movement of holding a double standard on human rights.
“They boycott Israel but they refuse to boycott ISIS. That tells you everything you want to know about the BDS movement,” Netanyahu said. “They condemn Israel and do not condemn ISIS; they condemn themselves."
“Israel has an exemplary democracy. We have academic freedom, press freedom, human rights,” Netanyahu said during a photo op with Canadian Foreign Minister Rob Nicholson.
Nicholson said Israel is “on the front line of free and democratic the nations world over ... any who turn their back on Israel or turn a blind eye to the nature of Israel's enemies do so in the long run at their own peril."
Deputy British Ambassador to Israel Rob Dixon said in a statement quoted by the Times of Israel that the U.K. will continue trade with Israel.
“We are deeply committed to promoting the U.K.’s trade and business ties with Israel, as part the flourishing partnership between the two countries. The reality is one of rapidly strengthening links between British and Israeli universities in science and academic cooperation,” Dixon said. “As [Prime Minister] David Cameron has said, the U.K. Government will never allow those who want to boycott Israel to shut down 60 years worth of vibrant exchange and partnership that does so much to make both our countries stronger."
The Times of Israel reported that the National Student Union represents 7 million students at 600 educational institutions in the U.K.