UCL professor: Terror 'Palestinians' moral right'

Israel's "right to exist" conceded in Oxford Union debate.

oxford u 224 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
oxford u 224 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
In a lengthy and fiery debate at Oxford University over the weekend, the student union conceded Israel's "right to exist" by just over 100 votes. Proposing the motion "This House believes that the State of Israel has a right to exist" were Norman Finkelstein, formally of De Paul University in Chicago, and Ted Honderich, professor of philosophy at University College London. Questions about the seriousness of the event were raised ahead of the debate, since not only opposers of the motion, but also its proposers, were considered detractors of Israel. Finkelstein, who had been supporting the motion, voted against it, while Honderich, who had crossed sides during the debate, voted for the motion, adding to accusations that the debate was a farce. Supporting the motion, Jessica Prince from Oxford's University College spoke about the "absurdity" of the debate title. "I didn't think it was a question that we ask anymore," she said. Opposing the motion, Lewis Turner from Oxford's New College said that if Israel is supposed to be a safe haven for Jewish people, "it's not working out because it's one of the most dangerous places for them to live." "I was shocked to hear Honderich actually say that, 'Palestinians have a moral right to terrorism,'" said Olga Belogolova, a Jewish student from Boston University studying at Oxford for the semester. "It was disappointing to see how many people were applauding the obviously radical speakers who were at times dishonest during the debate," she said. "It was disappointing to see students who agreed with the justification of terrorism and who were not questioning the rhetoric of the speakers." "The debate was another childish attempt at sensationalism by the Oxford Union," said Yair Zivan, campaign director of the Union of Jewish Students (UJS). "To have a debate about Israel without a single mainstream voice present shows the debate was the farce we expected. The Oxford Union owes better to its membership to allow for intellectual debate and they should try to seriously engage with issues." The Oxford University Debating Society refused to comment on the debate. Meanwhile, Jewish and Israeli students at the London School of Economics (LSE) claimed victory after defeating a controversial motion calling for a boycott of Israel and calling Israel an apartheid state, raised at the university's union general meeting on Thursday. The motion was defeated by seven votes following a mobilization of Jewish and Israeli students on campus. The motion, proposed by LSE student Emiliano Huet-Vaughn, an International Solidarity Movement activist, branded Israel an apartheid state and called on the LSE student union to start a campaign to lobby the university and National Union of Students to divest from and boycott Israel. Released 48 hours before the union meeting, the motion created a huge backlash and prompted Jewish and Israeli students to respond to what UJS called "extreme anti-Israel rhetoric on campus." "Israel is an apartheid state, a state that promotes racism and xenophobia through acts of parliament, a democracy so-called only for people recognized in Israeli laws as 'Jews,' supported by a set of racist laws under which different laws regarding citizenship, housing, land ownership and marriage apply depending on whether someone is classified in law as 'Jewish' or 'non-Jewish,'" the motion read. "[The year] 2008 marks the 60th anniversary of the Nakba, the expulsion of the great majority of Palestinian Arabs from their homes and homeland in historic Palestine between 1947 and 1949. The expulsion, planned and systematically carried out by the founders of the State of Israel, was essential to the creation of an expressly Jewish state in the political Zionist sense of the term," the motion said. The motion also supported the one-state solution and the end of the Israeli state. "Israel should be a state for all its citizens and stop discriminating against the indigenous Palestinian population. The Palestinians have the right to return to their homeland and receive just compensation and Israel should implement all international laws that it is currently violating," it read. Following a highly tense and hostile meeting, 292 voted for the motion, 285 against it and 100 abstained. "It was fantastic to see so many students turn out and show their opposition to this horrific one-sided and unconstructive motion," said Zivan. "Jewish student activists once again showed that they will stand up for Israel in even the harshest circumstances and won't let these kinds of actions go unchecked. "It was welcome to see so many students with no personal affiliation to the Middle East conflict vote against the motion and reject extremist rhetoric at LSE," he continued. "We hope this sets the tone for a more civilized and balanced debate in the future." "We only had 48 hours to organize the campaign but the response has been phenomenal," said Sam Cohen, a graduate student at LSE who led the campaign and spoke against the motion at the meeting. "Jewish and non-Jewish students proudly opposed extremist language at LSE and have shown that we want a moderate, sensible and constructive debate around the issues of the Middle East. I really hope this is the last time people try to polarize the student body in this way." "It's [the motion] a really negative development," said Lior Herman, an Israeli PhD student at LSE. "While I'm very happy with the academic level here [LSE] I don't feel as comfortable. Every day there seem to be posters and slogans against Israel. The motion was the culmination... it did nothing to help the Palestinians or promote understanding. "Not just Jewish and Israeli students want sensible discussion and bridge-building. Instead we're getting bridge-burning. Instead of doing what they should do, looking after the welfare of students, the [LSE] union meetings have become a platform for a minority to push their sinister agenda. Thus a large number of students, not just Jewish or Israeli, attended [the meeting] to make their voices heard," he said.