Press Release March 2015
SFoP dismay at presence of Israel at Glasgow University
Scottish Friends of Palestine expresses its dismay at, and total opposition to, the presence of Israel at Glasgow University today. The details of this visit by representatives of a brutal, apartheid state lacks the transparency one expects of academia in Scotland. If it should result in a yet-to-be quantified alliance with Israeli academia then it stands condemned.
Scottish Friends of Palestine is no stranger to engaging Glasgow University over its stance on relations with Israeli academia. Prof Adam Tomkins, of the University’s Law School was challenged, over two years ago, when on behalf of the Law School he claimed it would be a bonus if links were formed between the School and Israeli academia. The resulting comprehensive exchange of positions on the matter was largely one way, with academic staff members of the Law School remaining mute. There was little or no engagement when it came to seeking the nature of the bonus with a state which denies academic freedom to the Palestinian people. There was no comment over the confiscation of TV equipment from Al Quds University by the Israeli occupation forces – an effective ending, at that point, of the transmission of Sesame Street to the Palestinian child under occupation. There was no comment on the continual attacks on Hebron’s children, as they make their way to school, by the army and settlers. Just as there was no comment on those Gazan students denied permission to leave Gaza to further their education.
If academic freedom has to mean anything then it has to be available to all. Academic freedom also gives the freedom to question, debate and criticise. Glasgow University’s total lack of openness with regard to this visit by the Israeli ambassador, its willingness to embrace the state of Israel, raises questions with regard to its commitment to this freedom. It is bad enough that the University finds it acceptable, in the name of academic freedom, to indulge a state which denies the same to others. However, Glasgow University has real problems when it denies this freedom to its own students, denying them the right to question and debate their University’s judgement and denying this right to the wider citizenry of Glasgow.
Scottish Friends of Palestine was formed in 1982 in response to the Israeli invasion of Lebanon and the subsequent attacks on the Palestinian refugee communities. SFoP campaigns for immediate and unconditional Israeli withdrawal from all territories illegally occupied, including East Jerusalem. We work for educational, social and cultural links between the Scottish and Palestinian peoples. We argue for the right of the return, the right to restitution and compensation for the Palestinian people.
Scottish Friends of Palestine is a firm advocate of the total boycott of all Israeli institutions, academic and cultural bodies and Israeli products – until as such times that the Israeli state ceases to boycott the rights of the Palestinian people, and international law as it applies to the Palestinian people. Visit www.easi-piesi.org to find out what you can do. www.scottishfriendsofpalestine.org
This Press Release coincides with another on the same theme:
Press Release 27/02/2015
A historic victory for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement was achieved today in the referendum on the academic boycott of Israel , at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London. Out of 2056 votes cast, an overwhelming majority of 73% voted in favour of boycotting Israeli academic institutions. This victory reinforces the demands of the BDS call issued in 2005 by Palestinian civil society organizations .
The voting took place between 23rd and 27th of February. The referendum was School-wide, that is, it was open to all members of the SOAS community. This included current students, academics, non-academic staff, university governors, and outsourced workers such as cleaners, security, and catering staff.
SOAS represents one of the most diverse student bodies in the UK with roughly 6,000 students and staff of multi-faith backgrounds from over 133 countries. The referendum was called for by the Students’ Union, and was conducted in an open, fair and transparent environment. Both the Yes and No campaigners were given equal platforms to hold panel discussions and debates.
The academic boycott campaign was led by students and staff from various nationalities, backgrounds, and faith groups reflecting the broad support for the boycott. It has demonstrated the popular appeal of BDS as a powerful form of protest and resistance.
By voting in favour of the academic boycott, the SOAS community has confirmed its unwavering commitment to freedom, equality and justice for all Palestinians and has reasserted its call for an end to Israeli apartheid, oppressive occupation, and settler-colonialism.
Presently, SOAS has ties with the Hebrew University, which unapologetically joined the “war effort” last summer  when the Israeli army murdered over 2,000 Palestinians in Gaza. In October 2014, the US weapons-producer Lockheed Martin announced that a cooperation agreement  had been signed with Yissum, a technology firm that belongs to the Hebrew University.
The academic boycott campaign stresses that the boycott does not contradict academic freedom as it targets Israeli institutions complicit in the oppression of Palestinians, not individuals. Open enquiry, free exchange of ideas, and intellectual freedom are crucial to every academic community, but freedom can only be real when it is afforded to all. This has to include the Palestinians.
The Palestine Society and the BDS campaign at SOAS state:
“This historic result has brought us one step further in our struggle for freedom and justice. We do not tolerate any collaboration with academic institutions which are complicit in human rights violations and which do not practice the values of academic freedom and equality. We call upon other universities to show their solidarity by joining the academic boycott.”
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