An initiative by Jewish students in Cambridge to hold a Middle East Peace Week has drawn support in advance of the annual Israel Apartheid Week, writes Jenni Frazer.
But two days into the week of talks, the university’s Arab Society, which had offered “support” rather than direct involvement, pulled out of any association with the event.
A spokesman for the Cambridge Israel Society told Jewish News: “We hope the division is clear between those who want to engage, and those who don’t”. He said that the Israel Society was keen that the optimism expressed by the Peace Week “superseded” the negativism expressed during Israel Apartheid Week.
The Middle East Peace Week talks were organised by Cambridge Israel Society, the university’s Kurdish and Persian societies, One Voice and the Cambridge University Calais Refugee Action Group.
The Israel Society’s Joel Collick said the aim was “to make students look at the Middle East in a new light, beyond conflict and bloodshed”. He told The Tab student website: “We want to set a precedent by working together on common issues and challenges. In setting such a precedent …the prospects of peace will itself be more likely.”
Such issues included examining the role of religion in the region, women’s rights and the future of the Middle East. Collick added: “We find that a lot of the discussions around the Middle East involves finger-pointing and juvenile point-scoring. The talks are designed to be as inclusive as possible.”
MEPW speakers included the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, and a number of other academics.
However, some members of the Palestine Society, which had declined to participate, complained the event had been organised “to direct attention away from the growing success of Israeli Apartheid Week”.