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UCL Union votes overwhelmingly to twin with Palestinian Universities in the West Bank and Gaza

Written by admin  •  Thursday, 06.03.2008, 10:26
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On Thursday 5th March, The University College London Students’ Union (UCLU) voted overwhelmingly to twin UCL Union with the Unions of Al-Quds and Al-Azhar Secular Universities in the West Bank and Gaza respectively with immediate effect. Furthermore, the Union voted to establish an educational exchange programme between UCL students and students from the Palestinian universities, and finally “To reiterate the UCLU Friends of Palestine societyÂ’s right to raise issues that concern the student body, criticise the GOI [Government of Israel] and its policies, as well as highlight atrocities that contravene International Humanitarian law and not be treated unlike other societies for doing such.”

In a maximum capacity lecture theatre of 325, people packed in, spilling over into the stairs, to hear the debate of various topical and constructive motions at the best attended UCLU Annual General Meeting since 2003.

Before the meeting the chances of passing the motion seemed very slim. Not only does UCL have over 800 Jewish students, the highest proportion of Jewish students in the UK (4.5% approx.), but also just before the meeting, a hostile amendment was received asking the UnionÂ’s students to twin with the Israeli Hebrew University in Jerusalem (and remove twinning with Al-Azhar Secular University in Gaza) also. The speaker for the motion appealed to the objectivity of sources such as ‘The Harvard Israel Review’ and ‘The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ over ‘United Nations’ organs including ‘The International Court of Justice’ in the original motion submitted and suggested the former reflected “the reality as it is today” better.

This is not to mention recent attacks on the society at all levels. The Union Media and Communications Officer as well as members of The UCLU Jewish Society had slandered the UCLU Friends of Palestine society (henceforth UCLU FPS) for “inciting racial hatred” following a recent exhibition entitled “Jerusalem Dispossessed”. The exhibition documented “the dispossession of indigenous Palestinians from their native city, Jerusalem, amid rapid expansion of Israeli settlements, the separation wall and home demolitions”. It was provided by ICAHD: The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) ‘Action Advocacy Project’ and funded by Irish Aid, The Austrian Development Agency and The Netherlands Representative Office; of course a typical basis for breeding of “terrorism” if there ever was one.

The attack was constructed in the form of a sudden article in the Jerusalem Post entitled ‘London students slam anti-Israel exhibition’. In the article Johnny Paul, who incidentally manages to balance his position as objective “London correspondent” with being President of SOAS Israel Society, made false accusations against the UCLU FPS. Neither the UCLU JSoc, UCLU Media and Communications Officer nor J.Paul bothered to consult the society for their side of the story before publishing the piece. If they had they would have discovered that contrary to claims otherwise, the UCLU FPS had got permission for the exhibition (even though it was not required since the exhibition was not on UCL Union property), as confirmed by the Services and Events Officer of UCL Union. This has led to the Jerusalem Post being forced to accept a soon to be published response from ICAHDÂ’s Angela Godfrey-Goldstein, herself a Jewish Israeli, who comments that “Any negotiation taking place while borders are aggressively being determined according to one sideÂ’s interests is an illusion. Without real freedom and respect of the otherÂ’s right to live in dignity, there is no basis for political negotiation.”

Although the meeting opened late, once it was the motion was passed swiftly. Thanks to a superb turnout from various sympathetic societies, the Zionist extremists that have so often successfully disrupted such meetings on technicalities such as quorum counts were forced to retort to the farcical in order to desperately claw back votes. This was manifested clearly in the absurd claim that the motion aimed to present conscripted members of the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) as “evil” for some anti-semitic end- the claim presumably a desperate attempt to vote-grab from potential soldiers-to-be there to oppose another motion to ban recruitment of the Officer Training Corp (part of ‘The Territorial Army’).

The President of the UCLU Friends of Palestine said that the passing of the motion “was an important and constructive step which allows UCL students to get first hand experience and knowledge of the reality on the ground in Palestine in an environment marred by fictitious propaganda” and encouraged “other universities to follow suit”.

– To contact the UCLU Friends of Palestine email uczxfpc@ucl.ac.uk

– The UCL motions and amendments can be viewed at www.uclunion.org, or at the following links:
Second ammendment to motion on Palestine
Amendment to the “Emergency Motion on Occupied Palestinian Territories”
Emergency motion to AGM On Occupied Palestine

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