University College London students to vote on anti-Israel motion just before Shabbat
Jewish students at prestigious London university upset with decision to start the meeting at 3 p.m.
By JONNY PAUL, JERUSALEM POST CORRESPONDENT IN LONDON
The student union at one of London's most prestigious universities has angered Jewish students by deciding to begin its annual general meeting shortly before Shabbat.
With a motion to condemn Israel for its actions during Operation Cast Lead on the agenda, Jewish students at University College London are upset with the decision to start the meeting at 3 p.m. on Friday. It is likely to run into Shabbat, and even though no motions will be voted on after sundown, many observant students will be unable to attend the meeting if they want to get home before dark. This Shabbat begins at 5:22 p.m. in London.
The general meeting was originally scheduled for Monday, February 2, but was canceled after heavy snow paralyzed the British capital and rescheduled for Friday afternoon. With two out of eight motions affecting Israel, Jewish students are not happy.
One, titled "Motion against Israel's attacks on Gaza," would condemn Israel and note while Britain "continues to have diplomatic ties with Israel," Venezuela expelled its ambassador in solidarity with the Palestinian people. It also cites the letter signed by a number of British academics during Operation Cast Lead that said, "We must do what we can to stop Israel from winning its war."
Gabrielle Nejad, the president of the University College London Jewish Society, told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday she recognized the difficulty the union had with rescheduling the general meeting, but said that by holding it at 3 p.m. on a Friday it was also alienating students who had lectures at that hour.
"They did make an effort to accommodate us, but we are still disappointed they didn't do enough for Jewish students who live further away. While we appreciate they must take into consideration other students, they are alienating other students who have lectures at that time and who feel strongly about the union taking such a political stance," she said.
Nejad said that students would also like a say in the other Israel-related motion, titled "Support peace and unity in the Middle East and on campus." It states that condemning either side in the Israel-Arab conflict will "alienate students on campus" and proposes to support all students, "regardless of their faith or political persuasion." The motion also proposes to remain apolitical and neutral regarding foreign policy.
The student union said in a statement on Thursday: "We would like to apologize to any students who feel inconvenienced by the revised time for the general meeting."
The union said it was aware of the concerns of "religious students," but Friday was the only possible time.
"We recognize that this time may be difficult for various students and student groups. However, the nature of university life means that there is no good time for such a large-scale meeting, with conflicts on every date and time."
"It was no quick or easy decision to schedule the meeting at this date. Indeed, it had been factored into the planning after lengthy discussion as a contingency for just such a situation as we now have. We are aware of the problems with teaching times and student activities - however, Friday afternoon presents the fewest conflicts with classes and activities in the university as a whole. We are also sensitive to the needs of religious students, which is why it is scheduled to have a guillotine for motions at least an hour before sunset. Clearly, it is also possible to move things earlier or later in the agenda, or remove them altogether, to accommodate students if that is their wish," the student union said.
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