KCL Action Palestine account of events and statement regarding false accusations around Ami Ayalon’s event.

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KCL Action Palestine provided a statement after Ami Ayalon’s event on Tuesday 19th January 2016, to express its regret at the few acts of disorderly behaviour that were carried out that evening from both sides.

Due to the heightened coverage, inflammation and distortion of events by the mainstream media, we have decided to provide a detailed account of what happened on the 19th of January.

Ami Ayalon is the former head of the Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security service. Torture of Palestinians by the Shin Bet was commonplace during Ayalon’s leadership of the organisation (see here and here). The invitation of a former Israeli state official who is deeply implicated in Israel’s violation of Palestinian rights and war crimes, was a provocative step that deeply troubled Palestinians, pro-­Palestine students and supporters of human rights at KCL. Students at King’s College London have a right to protest and it was right that Ami Ayalon’s visit to KCL was protested.

Our account is as follows:

● Only 5 members of the King’s College London Action Palestine (KCLAP) society were present at the Ami Ayalon’s event. It was open to the public, and many people who are not students at King’s College London also attended.

● The 5 KCL Action Palestine members who did attend, went with the intention of handing out leaflets and questioning Ami Ayalon about the accusations of torture and other war crimes levied against him, as well as his contradictory and problematic views when it comes to illegal settlements, the apartheid wall, and his proposed solution to the occupation.

● Some external attendees that expressed a wish to either question or interrupt Ami Ayalon in protest were told, by KCL Action Palestine in a meeting before the event started, to be reasonable and to not resort to any disruption. They were told that they would probably be provoked for handing out leaflets, and that it would be unacceptable to respond to any provocation.

● At the entrance of the event, after the room started filling up, rather than permitting entrance on a first­come basis, the president of the Israel Society at King’s College London began to arbitrarily hand pick those who would be let in. Such actions go against university policy.

● Shortly after the event began, a large group of people comprised of both pro­Israel attendees and pro­Palestine attendees who had been denied access to the event, remained outside and some attempted to gain access to the room by pushing into the corridor. This escalated into the chanting of pro­Palestine slogans outside of the venue and some people banging the windows of the door of the Norfolk building to make noise.

● Some pro­Palestine attendees were hit, pushed and called “Hamas sympathisers” and other names for protesting. Security staff called the police wrongly claiming a hundred people were fighting outside the Norfolk building.

● The president of the Israel Society made a complaint to the police regarding being pushed. This followed a heated argument about her filming people’s faces without their consent.

● One pro­Palestine campaigner from SOAS made a complaint to the police regarding being hit in the shoulder by someone who was wearing a King’s College London lanyard and who seemed to be associated with the organisers of the event. Another pro­Palestine campaigner who was balancing on the railings of Norfolk building while holding a Palestinian flag up against the window of the room, was pushed by a pro­Israel supporter, which could have resulted in serious injury.

● All of these incidents happened over a very short length of time before the police arrived.

● We believe that the one window that was cracked, was cracked as an unintended result of the banging on the windows of the door of the Norfolk building as people protested and made noise.

● No chairs were thrown by any of the protestors at the event. A small number of the activists outside of the event and in the building’s corridor used chairs to make noise by banging them against each other.

● Following the event, KCL students associated with the Palestinian cause have received Islamophobic hate messages, victimisation and demonisation via social media.

In light of the above, KCL Action Palestine wishes to make the following points:

● We reaffirm that it was right for the visit of Ami Ayalon to be protested due to his participation in torture and other violations of basic human rights and universal freedoms. We reassert that students have a right to protest.

● Any physical confrontation on campus is clearly deeply regrettable. However, no member of KCL Action Palestine initiated a physical confrontation with any pro­Israel activist attending the event. To the extent that any physical confrontation did take place, it was initiated as much by supporters of Israel at the event as pro­Palestine activists.

● As a matter of principle, KCL Action Palestine is opposed to all forms of discrimination and oppression, including Islamophobia and anti­Semitism. We do not believe that any of the events that took place at the Ami Ayalon event were anti­Semitic in nature or intent.

● Any claims that KCL Action Palestine “attacked” the event, “threw chairs” or “smashed windows” are false.

● We believe that peaceful disruption of speaker events by people who have participated in war crimes, including torture, is a legitimate form of protest.

● We deeply regret the way in which the media has reported events. Many of the media outlets that have repeated the Israeli Society’s version of events most critically did not contact us to seek our version. ​As a result of some of the attacks, KCL Action Palestine will be seeking advice with the Press Complaint Commission due to distortion, misrepresentation and libel.

● Moreover, KCL Action Palestine members have faced undue intimidation, victimisation and online harassment as a result of the inaccurate statements made by the media. The College has not yet addressed how pro­Palestinian students on campus may be feeling as a result of this.

● We look forward to fully cooperating with the investigations by the university and the student union, and we hope the safety and well­being of pro­Palestinian students on campus is given as much attention as that of Israeli Soc members.

● Overall, we reaffirm our commitment to take peaceful action in support of the Palestinian struggle for liberation and our solidarity with Palestinian students and youth, who have in recent months been mobilising in huge numbers to resist Israeli settler colonialism.

Statement of Clarification regarding Ami Ayalon’s event on the 19/01/2016

In light of the accusations surrounding yesterday’s events, KCL Action Palestine would like to categorically condemn any aggression that took place at the Israel Society Ami Ayalon event.

KCLAP had planned to challenge Ami Ayalon and inform the audience of his complicity in the torture of Palestinians as former head of the Shin Bet and the problems surrounding his current views – as is within our rights and detailed on our blog (https://permissiontonarrate.wordpress.com/2016/01/19/kclaps-statement-in-response-to-ami-ayalons-visit-to-kings-college-london/). Our intention was to attend the event and shed light on Ayalon’s crimes through dialogue.

That the event escalated into a disruption was beyond our control and not incited by any member of our committee. KCLAP is not connected and does not control the actions of external attendees. As stated we do not condone any aggressive reaction on our campuses. Some of our members protested after they were left out and people were arbitrarily selected to go into the event, and we refute any involvement with what took place beyond this.

KCLAP’s statement in response to Ami Ayalon’s visit to King’s College London

 

Ami Ayalon, former chief of the Shin Bet Israeli security service as well as commander of the Israeli navy was invited to examine the question “is there a partner for peace” by the KCL Israel Society.

As of today, KCL Action Palestine has not received any official information from the Student’s Union (KCLSU) as to why Ami Ayalon was given a platform, taking into consideration the crimes he is accused of and the degree of controversy surrounding him.

Ami Ayalon is allegedly coming to speak about  Israel’s security and stability, but what is really behind this rhetoric of endless peace processes and security?

Ami Ayalon has been accused of being directly responsible for war crimes as former head of the Shin Bet, one of the most powerful security organisations in the world. The Shin Bet has historical roots in the Zionist terrorist Haganah groups, responsible for the ethnic cleansing of thousands of Palestinians. The Shin Bet is infamous for the torture and killing of Palestinian detainees. The Shin Bet has been condemned by the UN Committee Against Torture for its use of violent interrogation tactics.

According to Israeli Human Rights Lawyer, Avigdor Feldmon, ‘’Many practices legal for Shin Bet are illegal for the police. If Shin Bet detains you, you have no rights to a lawyer for up to 20 days’’.[1]

According to Palestinian Lawyer, Hussein Abu Hussein, ‘’Shin Bet infringes basic human rights, it prevents people’s ability to express their opinion, gather and demonstrate’’.[2]

Ami Ayalon is also known for supporting the two state solution and launching a peace initiative called “The People’s voice”. He wrote however that to preserve “a clear Jewish majority,” the Israeli government “must declare that it has no and will have no sovereignty claims east of the security fence.”[3] This initiative also denies the inalienable right of return of the Palestinian refugees as stipulated in UN resolution 194.

To argue Israeli Jews must always be a majority, to define Palestine around an annexation wall (most of which is built on Palestinian land), and to deny the Palestinian right to return implies the two state solution is preached due to a fear of losing the ethnic and colonial supremacy Israel has enjoyed since 1948.

It is also questionable whether this two state solution implies the removal of 500, 000 illegal settlers and settlements that cut deep into the West Bank. Under these conditions and a totally unconnected 41km long Gaza strip, a two state solution means isolated bantusans on a depleted scrub land.  It means the oppressors continued supremacy and the total subjugation of the oppressed. It means an absolute victory to a racist, apartheid state and total defeat to the struggling indigenous people’s of the land.

Thus, Ayalon’s position makes him no different from the more overtly racist Zionists in the current Likud government.

As a society committed to the Palestinian fight for justice and that stands in solidarity with their plight we declare that:

It is unacceptable to collaborate with any person, organization and institution complicit in war crimes or human rights violations.

It is unacceptable to give voice, under the guise of a failed peace process, to an alleged war criminal such as Ami Ayalon who has been accused for torture while Palestinians are denied a voice, their right to protest, and their right to free movement.

It is unacceptable for us as students to stand idle while our University invests in arms companies and cooperates with Israel in “anti-terrorist” strategies that keep perpetrating violence and deaths.

Having war criminals to speak at the expense of Palestinian voices and that try to whitewash apartheid is not academic freedom. It is complicity with systematic oppression.

We ask you as a student to support the BDS movement and the academic boycott of Israeli institutions until Israel grants Palestinians their basic rights and ends the illegal occupation and siege of Gaza.

SOLIDARITY WITH THE PALESTINIAN RESISTANCE.

FOR FREEDOM, EQUALITY AND RETURN.

KCL Action Palestine, SOAS Palestine Society & LSESU Palestine Society

[1] http://interactive.aljazeera.com/aje/PalestineRemix/inside-shin-bet.html#/8

[2] http://www.haaretz.com/news/dutch-lawyers-seek-arrest-of-minister-ayalon-for-war-crimes-1.255137

[3] https://electronicintifada.net/tags/ami-ayalon

 

International Day of Solidarity with Palestine

27th/November/2015

The International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People is observed by the United Nations on the 29th of November each year, in accordance to UN mandates. It is in line with this, that we decided to carry out a little commemoration today, on Friday the 27th of November at Chapters, King’s College London, Strand Campus.

This day has traditionally provided an opportunity for the international community to focus its attention on the unresolved issue of Palestine, and the fact that they are yet to attain their inalienable rights; namely, the right to self-determination, the individual human rights of all people, and the right to return to their homes and land from which they have been displaced.

We believe that as residents of the United Kingdom, and as students from King’s College London, we have a responsibility and duty to show our support and actively support the Palestinian struggle through the tactics of Boycotts, Divestments, and Sanctions (BDS). This is especially true, seeing as both the UK and our university are complicit and have invested in the likes of arms companies that are actively used by Israel, to maintain and prolong the decades-long occupation and dispossession of the Palestinian people.

Moreover, 99 Palestinians have been killed and more than 800 Palestinians have been arrested over the past two months, as protests continue and as Israel forcibly intensifies its brutal expansion of illegal settlements and ethnic cleansing of East Jerusalem. Hence showing solidarity with the oppressed today is as vital as ever.

The date of 29 November was chosen because of its meaning and significance to the Palestinian people. On this day in 1947, the General Assembly adopted resolution 181(II), which came to be known as the Partition Resolution. This provided for the establishment of a “Jewish” and “Palestinian State”, with Jerusalem as a city governed under the protection of the UN. Of the two States to be created under this resolution, only one (Israel), has so far been established on 72% of what once was historical Palestine.

The Palestinian people, who now number more than 8 million, live primarily in the Palestinian territory occupied by Israel since 1967 (including East Jerusalem and Gaza), within Israel itself, in neighbouring Arab States, and in refugee camps throughout the region.

According to Al Jazeera, political organisations across Palestine have called for a “day of anger” taking place today. Latest reports indicate 43 Palestinians have already been shot in clashes. Today we stand with them and send our message of solidarity to all those fighting for justice, freedom and equality.

 

What Next for Palestine?

It has been a year since Israel dropped approximately twenty tonnes of explosives over Gaza. Most of the strip remains devastated, with the scarce material being used to reconstruct  homes and infrastructure being bought from Israel itself. “Operation Protective Edge” has long been declared over and the media and politicians have turned their attention away. Unfortunately for the residents of Gaza, the wounds, devastation and continued Israeli aggression have not been over. In May alone, a total of fourteen teenagers were shot by IOF watchtowers according to the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights. Hundreds of thousands of children are still in dire need of psychological support, 90% of the water in Gaza is considered undrinkable, and people only have a few hours of electricity a day. With two thirds of the population being refugees within their own land, people have no jobs, tranquility or future. The rest of Palestine also remains occupied, segregated and dispossessed, under the constant threat of ethnic cleansing.

Qalandiya checkpoint

Qalandiya checkpoint

In spite of all this, within Palestine and within the Palestinian diaspora, people keep resisting. Internationally, the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS) keeps growing in size and success. The recent historic endorsement of the movement by the National Union of Students in the United Kingdom, coupled with the upcoming divestment of U.S. churches to divest from Israel (as well as fossil fuels), is small but represents the increasingly symbolic indication of the growing isolation Israel is heading towards. The inflammatory reactions by the Israeli foreign ministry and Benjamin Netanyahu, coupled with the millions invested to counter BDS can only be a sign of strength for the movement.

A recent talk at King’s College London, chaired by journalist Ben White and co-hosted by Amos Trust and KCL Action Palestine, featured a Question-time style panel with Palestinians from all walks of life. The main themes fuelling the discussion were the meaning of resistance and the future and what was next for the Palestinian struggle.

Ahmed Masoud, Palestinian writer and activist from Gaza, made the case for armed struggle in specific contexts, arguing it is the inevitable and last option that has been left to people, especially in besieged Gaza.

Riya Hassan, BDS European and National Co-ordinator, spoke about the BDS movement and international solidarity as the most effective tools to combat the occupation.

Iyad Burnat, from West Bank’s Bil’in’s Popular Committee, defended the strategic importance and relevance of non-violent resistance, talking from his own experience in succeeding in dismantling part of the apartheid wall. This sentiment was joined by Sami Awad from the Holy Land Trust in Bethlehem, who spoke about the moral grounds for non violent struggle and its function as a uniting and inclusive force.

Finally, Leila Sansour from Open Bethlehem, emphasised the importance of lobbying, political parties, negotiations and institutionalised struggle to pursue actual change on the ground. The debate was by no means consensual, which showed in a nutshell the diversity of positions existing within Palestine itself. There was a heated discussion on the legitimacy and efficacy of each type of resistance, as well as in the ways they should interact with each other. Some common convergence points were the importance of the BDS movement in shifting the narrative to one of rights rather than political boundaries, and having an impact on the ground yet while being wary in not converting it into a movement of its own that intends to “liberate” Palestine. This is recognition that Palestinians are the main actors of their struggle and thus have to be the drivers of their fight for liberation and a just settlement.

As an example of the effect international solidarity is having on the ground, Riya pointed out to the fact that during the recent Gaza massacre, no European country was willing to sell Israel ammunition, and so it had to be transported all the way from the United States. Another point made was the significance of the resistance to the Israeli Prawer Plan since it was announced in 2013. This plan aimed to ethnically cleanse around 40,000 Bedouins from the Negev desert, but the cohesion showcased by thousands of protestors from Palestine 1948, the West Bank, the diaspora, and even Gaza, created a sense of shared struggle that led to the withdrawal of the plan in December that year. This temporary success allegedly radicalised many Palestinians and has marked a turning point in the Palestinian grassroots struggle.

Lastly, Sami mentioned we should never overlook Netanyahu’s remarks on anti–Semitism and the invoking of Nazi Germany to condemn actions such as the recent NUS boycott as frivolous. Not only is his cabinet allocating money and people to combat BDS, but these statements are intelligently formulated to appeal to a certain national and international neo-conservative Jewish audience that is highly susceptible to the language of fear. By utilising the label of anti-Semitism, Israeli officials foster a sense of paranoia and entrenchment to the Israeli state as the protector of Jewish people, which gives political strength to Netanyahu and the Israeli right wing at home, whilst also maintaining and boosting international support from Zionist donors and lobbyists.

According to Sami, the Israeli status quo is composed of 3 pillars – the army, the media, and the economy. These factors are heavily dependent on international support, hence why it is key to use tactics such as BDS to weaken them. This way Palestinians can pressurise Israel into providing equal rights, the right of return, and an end to the illegal occupation – the three key demands of the BDS movement.

Until Victory,

Alberto Torres and Tayyaba Rafiq (All photo credit to @AfroArabian_ [Twitter] who is currently in Palestine)

KCLAP’s scholarships for Gaza campaign

In light of last summer’s bombardment of besieged Gaza, we passed a motion at KCLSU’s student council to send a symbolic gesture of solidarity to the strip by advocating for a fully funded scholarship for a student from Gaza. After the motion was passed in November last year, we have been working in conjunction with KCLSU to lobby and put pressure on King’s to set up a scholarship scheme for Palestinians from Gaza. And we have great news! Our VP of Education for the schools of Arts and Sciences Areeb Ullah has been in talks with Joanna Newman, who is the Vice Principal of International Affairs at King’s. They are currently working to raise funds to establish scholarships for students around the world who cannot afford to travel abroad but have the talent to do so. After communication with Areeb, it seems the idea for a specific scholarship for a student for Gaza has gained a good amount of traction. Now the work comes in ensuring it is fully funded and supported so that a Palestinian can leave Gaza with security and without problems and is supported to live in the UK too.

Kings_College_London_Sign

Currently and as a consequence of the 2008 occupations to protest the 2008 Gaza massacre, any Palestinian student can already apply for a HESPAL scholarship to do a Masters at King’s. These scholarships are funded by a combination of the UK foreign office, King’s and other bodies. We have also ensured the online page has been updated and that it is fully functioning, as it did not have been updated since 2013. We do not want to claim victory yet but should the scholarship specific for a student of Gaza be achieved (which is likely), we will send another update and hopefully at some point we will be able to meet with some of those Palestinian newcomers! The result of these developments is not sheer luck but rather the fact that throughout the years KCLAP has built a really strong presence and reputation on campus and been at the forefront of the student struggle. This is why your support and continued involvement with KCL Action Palestine is immensely appreciated.

The walls of apartheid will fall one day, and that day will be determined by us.

KCL Action Palestine

Right 2 Education Week: No to Occupation, Yes to Education.

This week marks the beginning of Right 2 Education Week: an international student led campaign of events and action, instigated by Birzeit University in the West Bank, aimed to raise awareness about the plight of Palestinian students, teachers and academic institutions and the many obstacles they face on a daily basis in their quest for education.

Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that, ‘Everyone has the right to education’ yet Palestinians living under military occupation are being systematically denied this basic right. In the West Bank and Gaza, occupied since 1967, there are today 11 universities, 5 university colleges and 25 community colleges. These universities have had a history of becoming sites of resistance so since their establishment have become targets of the Occupation.

Barriers to Education

The construction of a 730km wall since 2002 (declared illegal by the International Court of Justice in 2004) annexing half the West Bank creates a system of gates and permits that imprisons Palestinians; separating them from land, jobs, healthcare and education. With gates only opened at specific times, the delay to the commute of students and teachers significantly paralyses the hopes of an education as we would know it. Students and professors are specifically harassed and humiliated at checkpoints, often immobilised for hours then denied access or arbitrarily arrested. Women in particular are routinely harassed by soldiers in ways that infringe on their religious beliefs

Direct attacks on educational institutes are another crippling tactic. During ‘Operation Protective Edge’ of this year, 118 schools were damaged and 22 destroyed, most notably was the prestigious Islamic University of Gaza which was completely destroyed by Israeli missiles. Birzeit University has been closed by military order fifteen times, the longest closure lasting 4.5 years (1988-1992) during the first Intifada. Many students face arrest and detention for political activism. Since 2003, 480 Birzeit University students have been imprisoned; currently, 80 are held in Israeli prisons, more than half of whom (42 students) have yet to be formally found guilty of any charge.

Despite boasting equality Israeli schools and colleges with a higher proportion of Palestinian Israeli citizens receive markedly less government funding. Students and professors alike are denied the right to freely express any criticism of Israel’s state policy for fear of dismissal, incarceration and intimidation. There has also been shown to be a pro-Israeli bias within the curriculum of schools and colleges where textbooks often redesign history and promote Zionistic ideals which claims divine rights over the land and essentially legitimises the expulsion of the Palestinian people. In 2012 schools in East Jerusalem were required to purchase and teach textbooks prepared by the Jerusalem Education Administration, a body of the Israeli ministry of education.

Face to Face with the Facts

As a preliminary event to r2e week campaign KCLAP hosted a Skype session event on November 13th which allowed students and academics, including Dr Hanada Kharma a teacher of Human Rights and Democracy at Berzeit University, to share with us their story and the day to day trials they face. They spoke of the Qalandia checkpoint, in the West Bank, delays students for up to 5 hours daily who can expect to wait through 5 checkpoints per journey.

Dr Kharma implored us to Boycott Hewlett Packard and their involvement in production of the microchips integrated into the Israeli ID System that restricts movement of Palestinians whilst tracking the location of students in the West Bank.

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KCLAP Skype Event

KCLAP Skype Event

Jehan Al-Farra, a Palestinian graduate and activist, who now studies in the UK gave us an insight into the distinctive issues of education in an area besieged; the Gaza strip. She spoke of the lack of a Gazan economy and her desire to promote reviving one through internet based entrepreneurship, such as creating websites, programming and graphical design, and so pursued a degree in Computer Science. Like in the West bank, the Gazan’s aspirations to study what they want, where they want are obstructed by the Israeli regime. It is now near impossible for a Gazan student to study in the West Bank. There were 350 Gaza students at Birzeit University, near Ramalla, in 2000 but many were deported, and those who were not remained in the West Bank ‘illegally’, at risk of deportation at any instant. In 2005, the number had diminished to 35 Gaza and today the number stands at zero.

KCLAP with Jehan Al-Farra

KCLAP with Jehan Al-Farra

Free Education Demo

We strongly feel the right to education is one that all of humanity shares. Whilst there are massive parallels between the struggles of the Palestinian people and people wishing to pursue higher degree education here in the UK, we are first and foremost activists and any unfair impediment to education is one we are compelled to speak out against. Many of you reading this blog post are likely KCL students and many of you I imagine share the same dilemmas I did following the three fold rise in tuition fees.

On the 19th of November KCLAP joined over 5000 students at the Free Education national demo here in the street of central London, with the main ethos being ‘No Fees, No Cuts, No Debt’.

Free Education Demo

Free Education Demo, Central London

Right 2 Education Week #R2E

We are currently in the final days of R2E week. With stalls throughout the week at Guy’s and Strand Campuses from 11am to 3pm, our aim is to remind you of a form of oppression that you are unlikely to hear on the news. We hope you can join us tomorrow on our last day of the week and leave a message of solidarity. I leave you with a quote:

“Palestinian education and propaganda are more dangerous to Israel than Palestinian weapons.”

Ariel Sharon (Israeli Prime Minister 2001-2006)

Stop Attacking Education

Stop Attacking Education

A pen is the greatest weapon #ProEducation

A pen is the greatest weapon #ProEducation

R2E Stalls, Strand Campus

Education is the difference between just surviving and living – and should in this spirit be as much a right as the right to live

R2E Stalls, Strand Campus

Education is power! To take away someone’s right to education , you take away their freedom!

R2E Stalls, Strand Campus

From the River to the Sea, Education will be Free.

By Kamil Mahmood (KCLAP Committee)

Photography by Mariya Hussain