Shimon Peres death reminds us why KCL Action Palestine came into existence, and the obscenity of King’s decision not to revoke his Honorary Doctorate.

Photo: former Israeli president Shimon Peres poses with a gun next to Israeli military personnel.
Photo: former Israeli president Shimon Peres poses with a gun next to Israeli military personnel.

Post-January exam classes had just started and mornings were grey and chilly in London. The 2008 Gaza massacre had ended in a unilateral ceasefire on the 18th of January 2009. The toll was 4,000 homes destroyed, over 1,300 Palestinian deaths and many more thousands injured. This destruction was to last, as it is common with every Gaza onslaught. According to the UNCHR 75% of the houses were never rebuilt.

It was the morning of the 20th of that same month as students made their way to lectures that a group of 40-strong students stormed the Nash lecture theatre with banners, placards, and slogans. By the afternoon they had grown to 80 students with an online petition of support with 500 signatures. This was the tipping point. King’s College London had awarded Shimon Peres with an Honorary Doctorate for his “peaceful solution to conflicts in the Middle East” a month before the onslaught started. At the same time, the principal of the time decided to stay silent as people were being butchered and put under the rubble.

Students declared an occupation to demand King’s College London revoke the honorary doctorate it awarded to Shimon Peres alongside demands that included building links with Palestinian universities, providing scholarships for Palestinians to study in the UK, and divesting from arms companies. In doing so, they joined LSE, SOAS and Essex universities in their movement of solidarity with Palestine. Regular rallies and protests outside the Strand and at the principal’s office, news reporters, panels with academics from King’s and other universities, and constant debate characterised the occupation.

The occupation ended with students declaring victory and the creation of KCL Action Palestine. Its’ proclaimed aim: “[to] continue to fight for the end of the siege of Gaza and a Free Palestine on campus and raise awareness about the need to keep building the movement.” Eight thousand pounds were raised to support educational institutions in Gaza, computers and medical equipment were donated do the Islamic University of Gaza, and scholarships for Palestinian students were established.

But not all the demands were met. King’s was vociferous about not revoking Shimon’s honorary degree. Being unable to uphold the honours it initially paid to him when the honorary doctorate was awarded, King’s decided to argue that such revocation “would have a very negative impact on the College’s ability to be a centre of expertise on Middle East affairs including the peace process itself.” Instead, it opted to write to him directly about the “concerns noted regarding the conflict”. This reaction falls well within the mainstream Western narrative, where famous Zionist doves are praised as “men of peace” while Palestinians and their many other victims have to bear seeing these men pass without ever seeing accountability for their committed crimes. Failing to revoke his degree was not a way for KCL to retain its expert status, but an obscene political stance.[1]

Then there are other promises or half promises King’s never delivered. Up to this date there is no link with Palestinian universities, yet KCL has a working relationship with the Herzilya institute in Israel, it almost secured a year abroad with the Hebrew university, and in 2010 it had to end an academic partnership with the Israeli cosmetics company Ahava after significant student pressure. Furthermore, there was never a move to create an investment policy that would avoid arms companies until the creation of the Socially Responsible Investment Review Committee thanks to renewed student pressure from KCLAP and Fossil Free KCL in 2015.

It is in this context that KCL Action Palestine continues its work and campaign to end our institution’s complicity with apartheid. We continue to demand the building of educational bridges between King’s and Palestinian universities, based on the success of these in institutions like Goldsmiths University and SOAS and the values that our own university proclaims. We continue to demand fully-funded scholarships specifically for students from Gaza. And this year we aim to start the campaign to achieve full divestment from arms companies.

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Occupying students at Nash Lecture theater receive a lecture from Mike Cushman (LSE)

For Peace, Justice and equality,
guest blogger: Alberto Torres (former president of KCLAP)

 

 

[1] Shimon Peres praise as a man of peace comes from his role in the drafting and signing of the Oslo accords in 1993. This comes from a misunderstanding of what the Oslo accords were designed to achieve – the further entrenchment of the occupation and theft of land under the false guise of a state in the making. More striking however, is the standing of this praise in spite of his shelling of Lebanon which led to the Qana massacre two years later, his reputation as the architect of Israel’s secret nuclear Arsenal, and his role as global ambassador during Israel’s repeated Gaza massacres in 2008, 2012, and 2014[1].

KCL Action Palestine asks the Law School to remove the Hebrew University as one of its year abroad options

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*Update (29/08/2016). It has been confirmed to us that the student exchange with the Hebrew University is not going ahead. We were not given reasons behind this decision but we are pleased to hear the latter.*

KCL Action Palestine has been informed that the Law School is exploring potential year abroad partnerships for its Law with Transnational Legal Studies LLB degree. Among these, the Hebrew university appears to be an option.

As a society committed to upholding and promoting the academic boycott of Israeli institutions until apartheid is dismantled, we would like to ask the school of Law to consider with utmost seriousness any sort of partnership with the Hebrew University.

The Hebrew University university is partly built on occupied land seized by Israel in their 1968 illegal confiscation of 3345 dunums of Palestinian land and contains an army base on its campus. This has been repeatedly denounced by the international community as illegal, including by the UN Security Council, and is a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention. The Hebrew university also offers preferential treatment for students serving in the Israeli Defence Force (IDF), which engages in daily violations of Palestinian human rights in the West Bank, Gaza, and Jerusalem.

The university is also complicit in the unequal treatment of Palestinians, including those who are citizens of Israel. For instance, it does not provide teaching services to the residents of Jerusalem and the surrounding areas in contrast to those provided to Jewish groups, and no courses are offered in Arabic. Additionally, the Hebrew University has chosen to remain silent when the entire population of Gaza has been excluded from the possibility to enrol and study in the university by the Israeli government. Palestinian students from Gaza have a better chance of getting into a university in the U.S than into Hebrew University.

The above actions in which the Hebrew university is complicit are in clear breach of international law and standard ethical standards that King’s College London upholds as an institution. Moreiver, it should be noted that both the National Union of Students and KCLSU have in the past taken the position to not co-operate with institutions complicit in the dispossession of Palestinians from their homeland and has demanded KCL to do the same.

 

As Palestinians face systemic violence, unlawful imprisonment, denial of their right to return, and the illegal confiscation of their land, it is morally wrong for us to associate ourselves with and send our students to study at an institution complicit in these crimes.

It would be ironic to offer a degree in Transnational Legal Studies at a university involved in transnational illegality.

For these reasons, we kindly ask the school to reconsider the links it might desire having with the Hebrew University . Students, academics and staff at SOAS overwhelmingly voted last year to break their links with the Hebrew University – there is no need for us to do this if we don’t establish the links in the first place.

Further, at present KCL has not built on any links with Palestinian universities, despite committing to do so in 2009 after the successful occupation of the Nash Lecture theatre.

We would rather welcome and celebrate any steps by KCL to fulfill such promise.

Peace,

KCL Action Palestine

Are you in the law school? Please get in touch with us at kclactionpalestine@googlemail.com

 

Join us for Israeli Apartheid Week

Like every year, this week and the next one King’s is host to Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW) alongside 150 universities and cities around the world. IAW aims to raise awareness of the settler colonial project and apartheid policies of the state of Israel over the besieged people of Gaza, the Palestinian refugees, the West Bank and Israel proper, as well as to rally support for the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.

Do check our events and e-mail us at kclactionpalestine@googlemail.com if you want to get involved with stalling or campaigns.ca6f63da-0c59-4b80-a331-bd37c190b59a

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.