Israel-Palestine Awareness Week Scrapped

A CUSU sponsored joint Israel-Palestine awareness week was scrapped with hours to go, and replaced by an ‘Israeli-Apartheid’ week.

CUSU Israel Israel Society Law Faculty Law Faculty Occupation Palestine PalSoc

A CUSU sponsored joint Israel-Palestine awareness week was scrapped with hours to go last week, and replaced by an ‘Israeli-Apartheid’ week.

The joint event was proposed in the wake of January’s Law Fac occupation.

A motion to ‘support student-led initiatives in educating students on the issues in discussions from all points of view’ was tabled by Becky Talmy at a CUSU meeting on January 28th. 

The motion passed with the name of ‘Educating Students and Supporting Student-led Initiatives about Palestine and Israel’, after the original motion in support of Gaza was changed to ‘remove the possible political bias of the motion to make it more balanced’, according to the minutes of the meeting.

The planned week of ‘awareness-raising’ brought in CU Israel Society and CU Palestine Society (CUPal), however, after two months of preparation, a CUPal leadership reshuffle led to the new President pulling out of the event.

CUPal decided to re-embrace the plans shortly afterwards, with the hope of a week focussed on mutual debate of controversial issues.

CUPal invited Daud Abdullah, vice-president of the Muslim Council of Britain, to speak. Abudllah is a controversial figure, praised with limiting extremism but criticised for leading the MCB’s boycott of Holocaust Memorial Day.

Last Wednesday, the President of CU Israel Soc decided that he would not put his society’s name to Abdullah's talk. He emailed CUSU explaining, ‘Israel Society cannot participate in [that] event. We remain committed to the rest of the week.’

No reply was issued by CUPal, who on Saturday night invited their mailing list to ‘Israel-Apartheid’ week. The new week involved many of the previously booked speakers and venues.

Not until the next day did CUSU confirm to Israel Soc that the planned ‘Israel-Palestine’ week had been cancelled. CUSU offered no explanation.

Further speakers scheduled for ‘Israel-Apartheid’ week include Azzam Tamimi, banned from UCL for his praising of martyrdom.

Becky Talmy told The Tab, "CUSU couldn't have put its name to Pal Soc's rebranded events’ because, ‘it is not what CUSU was mandated to do. The motion was passed on the condition that CUSU was neutral."

CU Israel soc has accused CUSU of being "useless", but Talmy has defended the efforts made to mediate. She said CUPal did not communicate their plans to withdraw, with CUSU only informed of the change through the email invitation to ‘Israel-Apartheid’ week. 

Talmy explained that the crisis was due to a clash between the leaderships of different societies. ‘there seemed to be no willingness to engage in dialogue, ironically.’

"I know CUPal felt frustrated that Israel Soc were shying away from the nitty-gritty politics, but, equally, I know that Israel Soc genuinely did feel threatened by the invitation of Daud Abdeullah", she continued.

Abdullah Al-Jeffery of CUPal said, "we made it very clear from the beginning and repeatedly to all parties involved, that there should be NO preconditions imposed by either side on whom each side wishes to invite to speak [sic] … It was beyond question that any attempt to censor the choice of speakers destroyed any hope for integrity of the proposed endeavour."

The issue is indicative of a wider debate about the role of ‘hate-speakers’ on British campuses and how far free speech must be balanced with inciting racial or other hatred.

However, Talmy said: "the student movement doesn't seem to be organising effectively to fight fees and cuts, so perhaps it was a bit optimistic to think that we might be able to do something useful about Israel-Palestine."