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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.
Veolia’s activities in the West Bank include bus and light rail services and the Tovlan Landfill site, all serving illegal Israeli settlements. In recent years, the international community has targeted Veolia as a company profiting from the Israeli occupation. Veolia has lost contracts worth more than €10 billion since 2005, including, just a few months ago, a £300 million contract in Ealing, London. The actions against Veolia are part of a broader international campaign following the Palestinian call for boycott, divestment, and sanctions against Israeli companies and institutions. The Cambridge campaign against Veolia received letters of support from Palestinian lecturers and students, a group of 30 Cambridge academics, and the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network.
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.