• Students criticise Director’s refusal to support academic links with Birzeit University, Palestine
The Academic Study Group was founded in 1977 for the “promotion of new collaborations” with Israeli institutions. Israeli human rights groups have accused these institutions of being “part and parcel of Israel’s colonial system of oppression against the Palestinians.” By supporting Israeli institutions that have actively committed crimes against the Palestinians in contravention of international law, Davies is helping to legitimize their Apartheid policies. The Hebrew University of Jerusalem has been criticized for refusing entry to Palestinian students and for building on Palestinian owned land in the village of Lifta. The Ariel College of Judeia and Samaria, a part of the Bar Ilan University, is built on the illegal Israeli settlement of Ariel.
Ziyaad Lunat, the chair of the LSE SU Palestine Society and student member of court of governors said “Howard Davies’ blatant bias has tainted the school’s historic commitment to social justice by refusing to support existing links with Birzeit university, whilst actively supporting institutions that help perpetuate Israel’s apartheid policies. The struggle for equality and against racial discrimination in Palestine is being undermined by these reckless practices.”
James Caspell, a former Student Governor and Member of LSE Council added, “The School’s close links with the Zionist lobby are extremely worrying and divisive at an institution that brings together students and academics from around the world in an effort to discuss peace, human rights and social justice for all. The ASG has historically supported the Israeli colonisation of Palestine which has caused immense suffering to both Jews and Arabs in the Middle-East. I hope Howard Davies will recognise that such systematic bias cannot continue and will resign his membership of the ASG with immediate effect.”
Notes for Editors
1. On 30 May 2007 UCU (University and College Union) passed a resolution at its annual congress calling upon members of the Union “to consider the moral implications of existing and proposed links with Israeli academic institutions.” The next day LSE’s Director Howard Davies posted a statement on the LSE website condemning the resolution and by implication a free debate on the issue.
LSE students, staff and alumni wrote a joint letter to Davies in response to this statement. The letter, signed by most of the LSE Students Union Executive and more than 100 students, staff, alumni and heads of student societies, expressed concern at the Director's apparent opposition to the free expression of opinion. In two subsequent responses (22 June 2007 and 5 September 2007) Davies refused to meet with representatives of the signatories. He also declined to address or recognise the desperate condition of Palestinian academic institutions, stating that the School “has no corporate position” on this matter.
Over 20 LSE students silently occupied a meeting of LSE's governing body for over 30 minutes in protest at Davies’ refusal to meet representatives of students and academic staff (October 30th). Holding up banners stating “Academic Freedom for All” and “Equal Rights for Palestinians”, the students peacefully entered an LSE Council meeting, the monthly meeting of LSE's 25 directors, bringing it to a halt, and reissued their request for a meeting with Davies to discuss the issue, and also for a statement to be displayed on the LSE website affirming the right to education for Palestinians. After lengthy deliberation and threats to have the students forcibly removed, Davies and Council Chair, Mr. Grabiner, reluctantly agreed to attend a meeting and issue a statement acknowledging Palestinians' right to education.
Despite explicit requests from students that he should not attend, Lord Grabiner of Aldwych, the LSE Council Chair, who endorsed the Director’s denunciation of the Union resolution in a speech in the House of Lords, insisted upon being present at the long-awaited meeting with Davies and attempted to stifle debate over the crucial issue of restoring a balance to the School’s posture towards the parties involved in the Middle Eastern conflict. Since the meeting, the School has backtracked by refusing to publish a statement acknowledging the Palestinian Right to Education or actively support a scholarship for Palestinian students.
Contact: Ziyaad Lunat
Mobile: 0781 631 96 22