Palestinian groups “horrified” by new Guild Israeli and Zionist society
A new Guild-affiliated Israeli and Zionist Society has received a negative response from local Exeter Palestinian groups.
The new society, which claims it aims to “promote the ideals of the state of Israel, through dialogue, cultural activities and engaging talks,” prompted a Facebook post from Palestine Solidarity Campaign Exeter, a local campaigning group, which stated they were “shocked and horrified” at the establishment of the new society, stating that “there had always been a Friends of Israel Society, but this is ramping it up somewhat.” Speaking to Exeposé, the group argued that “Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have all condemned Israel as practicing apartheid against the Palestinians,” and questioned why therefore the group was welcomed onto campus by the Students’ Guild.
Friends of Palestine Society also commented on the new society telling Exeposé they were “disappointed” that the Guild affiliated the society and said they “will be contacting the Guild because we believe due process has not been followed in creating this society, and if we cannot reach an agreement then we will have no choice but to begin protesting on campus.” They also suggested that it was “deeply ironic that this year one of Exeter University’s goals is ‘decolonisation’ and yet it is happy for Zionists to advocate for the continued colonisation of Palestine on its campus.”
A spokesperson for the Israeli and Zionist society told Exeposé they were “surprised and saddened that the set up of our society resulted in such reactions. The society is based on a Zionist ideal, the belief of a Jewish state in our ancestral homeland. This does not mean we deny Palestinians the right to self-determination, and we truly wish to be able to work together in mutual respect, while assuring them that our goals are not jeopardising theirs.”
The society was affiliated by the Guild after 22 students voted in favour of its establishment, meeting the minimum requirement of 20 students. A spokesperson for the Israeli and Zionist Society stated: “[our] first goal is to provide representation of Zionist ideas and values, which are often misconceptualised by students in general. This non-partisan group aims at reshaping the way Israel is perceived among Exeter University’s students and give a voice to people who feel they have none. The multi-faceted culture of Israel is often reduced to the ongoing conflict in the region. Therefore, we wish to represent the many other sides of this beautiful country.”
[We] will be contacting the Guild because we believe due process has not been followed in creating this society, and if we cannot reach an agreement then we will have no choice but to begin protesting on campusFriends of Palestine society
The society has the support of StandWithUs UK, an international organisation which states it aims to educate people around the world about Israel. Their UK Executive Director Isaac Zarfati, speaking to the Jewish Chronicle, said “I am proud of our students who have worked tirelessly on campus to bring the voice of truth about Israel to their peers.”
A Students’ Guild spokesperson gave the following statement: “Any Guild member (which is any student at the University of Exeter) can apply to start a new society, and there are criteria set for this. The consideration of free speech enables students to establish groups with a diverse range of views where they can question, challenge, and explore these views. The role of Exeter Guild is to facilitate these groups, including when these views may be challenging or emotive.
We are committed to the principle that both debate and deliberation should not be suppressed, and we encourage and support our members to engage, within the law, in both a constructive and responsible manner to contest any ideas they oppose openly and vigorously. We have reached out to the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign Exeter and others who have expressed their dissatisfaction, to invite them in to discuss this further with us.”
Article from print issue 740.