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Open Letter to Edinburgh University Politics and International Relations Society Regarding Invitation of Israeli Ambassador
Edinburgh University Students for Justice in Palestine are writing to the Politics and International Relations society to object in the strongest possible terms to the invitation on to campus of Israel’s ambassador to the UK, Daniel Taub. We believe that by inviting a representative of a state which practises occupation, colonization and apartheid you are showing a blatant disregard for universal principles of human rights and justice and we urge you to reconsider your decision.
Israel operates a system of institutionalised segregation which discriminates against people based on their ethnicity, echoing many of the practises of apartheid South Africa. It was a state created directly on the displacement of the indigenous Palestinian population and this project of ethnic cleansing continues with Palestinian homes bulldozed on a daily basis and people forced from their land.
Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza live under a brutal military occupation which is in violation of international law, whilst 6 million refugees are denied the right to return to their land. In 2008/09, when Israel attacked the Gaza Strip, killing nearly 1,500 people, it was found guilty of committing ‘war crimes and possibly crimes against humanity’ by the UN Fact Finding mission. Daniel Taub has gone on record defending this operation, including the illegal use of white phosphorus during it. (1)
By hosting Taub, you are patently ignoring the call made in 2005 by over 170 Palestinian civil society organisations for the international community to apply a campaign of Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it abides by international law. This is a cry for people of conscience around the world to stand in solidarity with an oppressed people and join the civil society movement for a peace based on justice and equality.
Edinburgh University students have consistently shown their support for the Palestinian struggle for freedom from occupation by endorsing BDS. In 2009, students overwhelmingly voted for a boycott of Israeli goods at a EUSA AGM and at the most recent EUSA referendum, students voted to boycott security company G4S due to their involvement in the illegal occupation of Palestine. Indeed, only last year, the International Relations society pulled out of hosting Israeli diplomat Ishmael Khaldi, saying that ‘it would have been at the expense of millions of Palestinians living under apartheid’. (2) Unfortunately, your invitation to Taub, an ambassador for apartheid and defender of war crimes is in stark contrast to the progressive movement for justice and equality on campus.
Further, EUSA operates a ‘zero tolerance’ policy (3) stating that ‘all kinds of discrimination are unacceptable and will not be tolerated by our societies’. It is our position that having someone speaking on to campus to defend racial segregation and war crimes violates this policy and creates an unsafe environment for many students.
Whilst we welcome debate and discussion on this issue on campus, we reject the notion that inviting a propagandist and mouthpiece for an apartheid state presents an opportunity for any meaningful dialogue.
Anti-apartheid campaigner Desmond Tutu said that ‘If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you take the side of the oppressor’. We urge you to take a stand on the right side of history, show commitment to human rights and withdraw your involvement in this event.
Edinburgh University Students for Justice in Palestine