London students slam anti-Israel exhibition

University College London exhibit documented Palestinian suffering at the hand of Israel.

anti israel 88 (photo credit: )
anti israel 88
(photo credit: )
The student union at one of London's largest universities has distanced itself from an anti-Israel photo exhibition put on without permission from university officials that allegedly contained anti-Semitic and offensive material. The student union at University College London has vowed to take action against the university's Friends of Palestine Society, which organized the exhibit last week with fringe group Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD). The organizers repeatedly refused the union's request to take down the photos, despite numerous complaints about the contents. The union then removed what it said were offensive texts. Entitled "Jerusalem Dispossessed," the exhibition documented "the dispossession of indigenous Palestinians from their native city, Jerusalem, amid rapid expansion of Israeli settlements, the separation wall and home demolitions." The union said that prior approval was not sought by the society, either from the university or the union, and complaints were received from both Jewish and non-Jewish students about the offensive nature of some of the captions. "The display was put on by the UCL Union Friends of Palestine Society; it was not approved by the union before being displayed, as it was on college property and not [the union's]. We have received a large number of complaints about it from students who said that the display used 'Israeli' and 'Jew' interchangeably, and that the display was of a religious and racial nature rather than a political one." said Sean Clothier, University College London Union's Media and Communications officer. "The UCL Jewish Society is outraged the exhibition was allowed to take place and has received a huge number of complaints from students, both Jewish and non-Jewish, who feel the images and captions contain incitement to anti-Semitism," Harrison Cohen, president of the UCL Jewish Society, said. "The incident has damaged the reputation of the college." "As a union that has to represent all of its members, regardless of religious or political motivations, we take any complaint of this nature very seriously indeed, and our own elected anti-racism officer was one of the students who wrote to us expressing distaste at the exhibition," Clothier noted. "We have therefore put the issue on the agenda of our next Societies Board, which will consider the display, the reaction to it and the implications they may have on any policy we may make regarding approval of displays in the future. We may decide to discipline the society." But Cohen vowed to remain unfazed. "We will not allow such an event to hinder the way in which we show our support for Israel or our actions as proud Jewish students on campus," Cohen stated. Meanwhile, ICAHD is campaigning for people to support a divestment motion passed last week by the student union of the London School of Economics (LSE). The fringe group is asking people to e-mail the university's president, Howard Davies - who opposes the academic boycott of Israel - to make sure he heeds the student union's decision to divest from companies that support Israel. "We encourage you to write to director Howard Davies offering your support of the motion which also supports ICAHD's work, as you will see mentioned [in the text of the motion]," the e-mail read. LSE's Israel and Jewish Societies were able to defeat a prior divestment motion that equated Israel with apartheid. The motion was passed the following week without the apartheid analogy, after the Israel and Jewish societies boycotted the union meeting in protest. The two societies instead moved from politics to charity and raised over £1,000 for Save A Child's Heart, an Israeli humanitarian organization that provides life-saving heart surgeries for children from developing countries, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion or gender.