We are writing this email on behalf of the BME and Women’s liberation groups at the University of Edinburgh.
We have recently been made aware that the Politics and Social Sciences department has invited the Israeli ambassador again, to speak at the university. We assume that his talk is taking place under your supervision.
This has disappointed us given the fact that a talk by the ambassador which took place two years ago had caused much distress to students on campus, and students had approached the responsible authorities personally to inform them that the presence of the Israeli ambassador on campus poses a threat to the right to a safe space of some students at this university. Not only does the ambassador advocate policies that are discriminatory towards Palestinians, he has specifically defended the use of white phosphorous by the Israeli government. This white phosphorous was used on members of family of students. We have also been made aware that some students faced difficulty travelling back home to Palestine because of opinions they voiced at student council meetings. The presence of the Israeli ambassador, therefore, clearly should not be facilitated by Edinburgh University staff.
The previous time students approached the university about this issue they were told that not allowing the Israeli ambassador to speak violates the principle of free speech adopted by the university, and that the university aspires to deliver an unbiased presentation of the situation and therefore Israeli officials must be allowed to speak at the university. However, we are aware that the Israeli ambassador has been invited before, this time by the department itself, while no Palestinian officials have been invited. Hence, it does not seem to us that the politics department is indeed concerned with delivering an unbiased perspective on this conflict. Furthermore, the event is exclusive and not open to all relevant departments. We have been made aware that some students from the IMES department have been denied access despite the fact that such a talk is relevant to their area of study.
We have been informed by the students who approached us, in our capacity as elected members of EUSA, that they are considering to pursue disciplinary procedures against the responsible authority if this event takes place. Members of the liberation movement have expressed their concern and have decided to pursue disciplinary action on behalf of those students if necessary.
The procedures of disciplinary action dictate that a notice of five days is required for an event to be cancelled. However, this event has not been publicised, and so students were not given the opportunity to respond earlier as they were deliberately not informed of this event taking place.
Edinburgh University Students’ Association, and the National Union of Students (bodies which represent a very large proportion of students in Scotland) have policies passed which support the right of Palestinian students to education, and call on other institutions to advocate the condemnation of Israeli encroachment on this right. We hope that you take these concerns into consideration, and in our capacity as a liberation movement, we do not welcome a representative of the Israeli government.
B.Y., EUSA BME Liberation Group Convener
Sarah Moffat. EUSA Women’s Liberation Group Convener