OPINION: We stalled our union twinning with Hamas linked university

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OPINION: We stalled our union twinning with Hamas linked university

James Graham

By James Graham, our new Campus Correspondent for Manchester University.  H is a Middle Eastern Studies student and Jsoc Committee member. He tweets here and blogs here.

University offers people the opportunity to meet thousands of people from all around the country and world, all of whom come from varying socio-economic and ethnic backgrounds.

This melting pot subsequently opens you up to many different points of view on different political issues, which is something that I can make student politics quite intimidating and, at times, highly volatile.

Emotions run wild and, so far, I have stayed away from it.  

I am a Zionist and I study a course, Middle Eastern Studies, which theoretically, puts me directly in the firing line of some potentially very difficult questions.

As a result, I have never taken part in student politics because I feel that, whilst I am capable to defend my views, there is no point in doing so unless it is completely necessary.

Simply put, I avoid antagonising people and don’t go looking for confrontation.

However, this week a vote was held in the Students’ Union which caused myself and a large delegation of the Manchester Jsoc to defend our views.

The vote cast had a number of features.

The main results would see the University of Manchester twinned with Al-Najah University in Nablus with a Palestinian student receiving funding to come and study in Manchester.

This would be a brilliant opportunity for any student regardless of where they are from and I fully support it.

What we as a JSOC were opposed to is the twinning with Al-Najah, an institution with links to Hamas and that has publicly called for the annihilation of the Jewish people.

Instead we were in favour of a three way relationship between Manchester, an Israeli university and and alternative Palestinian one.

The other main issue raised in the motion was the removal of a sign that is displayed on the wall of our Students’ Union stating :

“The University of Manchester Students’ Union is twinned with the Al-Najah National University in Nablus. Students in Palestine have had their rights to education consistently denied by the Israeli Occupation: checkpoints, attacks on Universities and limitations on movement seriously hinder the ability of students in Palestine to learn. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights declares that everyone has the right to education, we fully support the struggle of our Palestinian brothers and sisters to realise this fundamental human right.”

Manchester University’s Union

It is impossible to summarise one of the most contentious historical debates, into just a few lines, which is what this sign attempts to do.

In places it is factually incorrect, whilst showing a bias that we do not want displayed on the walls of our union.

A large number of JSOC members attended the vote, which was open to all students of the University of Manchester to attend.

Questions were asked to those who proposed the motions before an independently selected panel of 20 students, from a variety of different years, voted on the matter and all issues raised at the meeting.

This motion was discussed for a far greater amount of time than any other issue raised at the meeting and the result of the vote was far closer.

At our university, a motion is only passed or failed if 75% of the voters are in agreement. Anything less than that amount, and the issue is sent for a general student referenda. 

On the back of the vote, David Rosen, Campaigns Officer for Manchester JSOC and the main speaker in opposition to the motion, said that he was “so happy that we were able to get a majority of the panel to support us, even though it wasn’t a clear enough majority for the motion to fail, as it’s the biggest achievement for campaigns at Manchester certainly in the last 5 years.”

I  am immensely proud to say that I was part of a delegation form the JSOC that went to the meeting and played a part in stalling the motion from being passed.

The voters did not come to a 75% majority and so the issue will be presented to the entire student body next Friday for a week long vote.

It is highly unlikely that the motion will be failed because of the make up of our student community. However, the fact that we delayed the process is still a massive achievement and one that we are proud of.

If you wish to contribute to Campus Correspondent, get in touch: jackm@thejngroup.com 

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