On March 2nd, 2015, Daniel Taub, Israeli Ambassador to the UK, was invited to the University of Glasgow under opaque circumstances to address a select group of students. The Ambassador’s visit was not publicised to the student body beforehand.
As Glasgow University students, we are deeply saddened that an invitation was issued to a representative of an oppressive regime and that the visit was allowed to go ahead. For decades Israel has imposed inhumanity on Palestinians. It has injected terror into their society employing ever developing forms of tyranny – it has confiscated land, homes and livelihoods, it has passed and is adhering to racist laws, it has tortured, killed and maimed – it has orchestrated massacres that have wiped out entire families, villages and neighbourhoods.
Firstly, we unequivocally denounce the use of the University as a platform by representatives of the Israeli state, especially its leading representative in the UK, until such a time that Israel unwaveringly complies with international law. We believe that no platform should be given to any Israeli official until Israel itself gives platforms to Palestinian officials. We assume this position in full accordance with the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, a non-violent, grassroots movement initiated by Palestinian civil society that aims to force Israel into relinquishing its Apartheid regime by imposing international pressure through boycott, divestment and sanctions. The BDS movement carries on the pioneering tradition of international solidarity developed by the near identical movement which helped topple the widely reviled South African Apartheid regime, which is still fresh in our minds today. The basic demands of the BDS movement set out the minimum terms for a just and lasting peace, namely:
1. Ending the occupation and colonization of all Arab land occupied in June 1967 and dismantling the illegally built apartheid wall.
2. Recognizing the fundamental rights of all Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality.
3. Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194.
By inviting the Israeli Ambassador, Glasgow University has undermined the BDS’s struggle to achieve freedom for the Palestinian people, and by extension, has become complicit with Israel’s Apartheid Regime.
The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign, of which Glasgow University Palestine Society is proud to be a small part, is a strong and growing movement,–currently supported by over 170 Palestinian civil society organisations. In February 2015, over 700 UK artists, including Liz Lochhead and Richard Ashcroft, stated “we will not engage in business-as-usual cultural relations with Israel.  During South African Apartheid, musicians announced they weren’t going to ‘play Sun City’. Now we are saying, in Tel Aviv, Netanya, Ashkelon or Ariel, we won’t play music, accept awards, attend exhibitions, festivals or conferences, run master classes or workshops, until Israel respects international law and ends its colonial oppression of the Palestinians.” Prominent academics and authors who fully endorse the boycott movement include: Stephen Hawking, Illan Pappe, Naomi Klein, Iain Banks and Alice Walker.
Secondly, given Mr Taub’s clearly dangerous views and testimonies on the occupation of Palestine, we find his invitation to the University extremely disturbing. Mr Taub has consistently defended Israel’s right to occupy the Palestinians. Most worryingly, he has publicly defended the 2014 War on Gaza, named ‘Operation Protective Edge’, during which, in full view of the world, Israel mercilessly carried out one of the bloodiest massacres in human history. Over 2200 Palestinian civilians perished from Gaza during that summer, over 550 of which were children. Furthermore, Mr Taub has consistently resorted to the well known strategy of the oppressor of slandering Palestinian resistance movements by referring to them as terrorist organizations, denying the full right of Palestinians to self-defence under international law. He has continuously exaggerated the threat against Israel from Palestinians – in full knowledge that Palestinians lack any form of real resources to truly threaten Israel’s existence. He has lied publicly and on record in a clear effort to justify an illegal and highly aggressive military occupation of Palestine.
We believe that the inflammatory and discriminatory rhetoric deployed by Mr Taub is highly toxic. It reflects a determination to perpetuate the status quo: apartheid, occupation and routine massacres of the Palestinians. His views should not be given a platform at Glasgow University.
Thirdly, that Ambassador Taub’s visit was kept from all but a select group of students and was shrouded in secrecy is an insult to the fundamental principles of transparency and free speech which students at Glasgow University hold dear. Students demonstrated their adherence to these values by overwhelmingly electing former US National Security Agency contractor and intelligence whistleblower Edward Snowden as rector last April. All students deserved to be informed in advance of the nature of the “high profile individual” present on campus. The great lengths gone to in order to ensure that students were left in the dark about the Ambassador’s visit are indefensible. In doing so, the University denied the right of students to prepare themselves, and to consider whether to attend, or indeed, demonstrate against the talk. It demonstrates blatant hypocrisy to call on freedom of speech arguments, when many students only found out about the event when they were denied entrance to the main building. The university went as far as to prohibit some of the invited students from attending, raising the unwelcome prospect that they were racially or otherwise profiling students.
Fourthly, we reject any possible position by University Leaders that implies neutrality – we believe that in this situation it is impossible for neutrality to exist. By providing a platform to an Israeli official, especially the Israeli Ambassador, and by refusing to accept the responsibility of the brutal repercussions on Palestinians, neutrality becomes a void non-entity and complicity becomes the only reality. As Glasgow University students we strongly implore the senior management of the University to put a halt to any future invitations to representatives of the Israeli state.
We write this letter in full hope that Glasgow University accepts its moral responsibility to distance itself from Israel and that the Palestinian people achieve justice and freedom.
Glasgow University Palestine Society
As always, the views expressed in this article are the authors' own and not reflective of the views of the Glasgow Guardian or its Editors.
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