This is a dismal story, about the resistance of the western mainstream to an understanding of the occupation of Palestine. It is reminiscent of the Salaita case in Illinois; but it took place at the London School of Economics.
In October, the Palestine Society staged an exhibition in the student union to dramatize the conditions of Palestinians under occupation, so as to explain the wave of stabbing attacks. A report on the exhibit says it emphasized the legal right of Palestinians to resist occupation.
On the stairs leading up to the 1st floor of the Students’ Union, there were several posters depicting the ongoing violence in Occupied Palestine. The first poster shows Palestinian resistance and made the argument the meaning of the word “Intifada” has been manipulated to mean something it is not. It made the point that “Intifada” means a political uprising and that its literal translation is “to shake off”. In this context, it would translate to “shake off the Israeli occupation through a series of political protests.”…
Throughout the duration of the event a video was on replay; it was composed of more than 10 short clips compiled to create a 30 minute-long video. Each clip addressed a different political situation, including the statistic released by ‘Defense for Children International–Palestine’, noting that around 500-700 Palestinian children are arrested, detained, and prosecuted in the Israeli military court system each year.
It seems that the exhibit was somewhat like things we have published about the ongoing attacks in Israel and Palestine, emphasizing Israel’s extrajudicial killings. The Jewish Chronicle in England notes that the exhibit contained images of injured and slain Palestinians.
It displayed a series of graphic images of injured Palestinians without background details or context.
Without the pro-Israel context, they mean! Well pro-Israel students complained, and now the London School of Economics administration has issued a condemnation of the exhibit, on November 30. Ben White reports at Middle East Monitor:
Yet a month later, in a statement published on November 30, LSE declared that the university was “deeply troubled” by the Palestine Society exhibition. Despite emphasising that “the law was not broken”, LSE said that “the apparent celebration, even if unintended, of violence and perpetrators of violence caused significant distress to students who identify with victims of that violence.”
White says that the school administration’s statement was lacking in specifics, and it overrode an investigation by the student union finding no problem with the exhibit. He adds:
For LSE to issue a public reprimand of a student society’s activities, without any law being broken and outside of any formal investigation or disciplinary process, is highly unusual.
The Israeli embassy promptly tweeted out the school’s reprimand, and White reports that the British Israel lobby played a role in the school’s decision:
A key role though seems to have been played by the Board of Deputies of British Jews. On November 19, the Board announced that president Jonathan Arkush, together with representatives of the Union of Jewish Students (UJS) and LSE Israel Society, had met with LSE Pro-Director Paul Kelly and other senior officials “to raise strong concerns regarding recent activities of the Palestine Society.”
Kelly’s position makes him one of the top administrators at the school. White:
This week, the Board claimed that “following [this] meeting”, LSE wrote to say it was “deeply troubled” by the Palestine Society’s “celebration of violence”….
Arkush bragged on his influence to a Jewish publication: “Following my meeting with senior academic leadership at LSE, the University has stated that it was deeply troubled by an exhibition mounted on campus by the Palestine Society…”
Ben White reports:
The Board of Deputies of British Jews has a long-established track record of advocating for Israel and attacking Palestine solidarity activism. Their recently-elected president, Jonathan Arkush, meanwhile, has a reputation for stifling even mild criticism of Israeli policies.
According to Arkush, claiming to be speaking in the name of British Jews, “we lobby unashamedly for Israel.” This ignores, of course, the activism of groups like Jews for Justice for Palestinians, Independent Jewish Voices, Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods, and many other individuals.
When Benjamin Netanyahu visited Britain in September, Arkush described protesters as a “howling mob, some of them with their faces covered in keffiyot [sic], in true terrorist style.” A former senior official at the Board slammed Arkush for a “grovelling, sycophantic” speech to the Israeli premier.
The matter is reminiscent of the Steven Salaita case because the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign chancellor, who has since resigned her job partly over the scandal, responded to pro-Israel complaints about Salaita’s Gaza tweets 16 months ago by meeting with donors to the university, then peremptorily firing Salaita. Some of Salaita’s tweets were startling, but they were immediate responses to a massacre of children.
PS. LSE has also lately removed an anti-Zionist commentary from a student group’s human rights blog on the LSE website, saying editorial guidelines were not followed. In it, Sandra Nasr, a lecturer on the Middle East at Notre Dame University in Australia, asserted: “Zionism, the ideological project to secure a Jewish homeland, relies upon notions of separateness, superiority and entitlement”. Gideon Levy said very much the same thing in Westchester in October.