Written by Student Rights on 7 December 2011 at 1pm

Ethical standards, Islamism and pseudo-balance...

This Thursday the Palestinian Society at the University of Surrey will be hosting their second event in a week that on first glance appear to demonstrate an admirable even-handedness on the issue of Israel and Palestine.

However, on closer inspection it can be seen that the inability of some student societies to present a truly balanced debate on the matter is once again manifest.

Given the title ‘Palestine: What Happened in 1948 – An Israeli’s Perspective’, the event on Thursday 8th features as its speaker the Israeli ‘New Historian’ Ilan Pappe of the European Centre for Palestine Studies at Exeter University. His books include ‘The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine’ and ‘Gaza in Crisis: Reflections on Israel’s War against the Palestinians’ with Noam Chomsky.

He has also written numerous articles including ‘The ’48 Nakba and the Zionist Quest for its completion’ and ‘Towards a Geography of Peace: Whither Gaza?’ on the Electronic Intifada website.

Criticised by the historian Benny Morris as having “a profound ignorance of basic facts” and being “at of the world’s sloppiest historians”, Pappe’s views have involved him in a number of controversies. He was asked to resign his position at Haifa University after endorsing an academic boycott of Israeli institutions and academics.

He also continues to stand by the MA thesis of Theodore Katz, a student at the University of Haifa who claimed that Israeli troops had killed 240 Arab civilians at Tantura in 1948. This thesis has since been failed by the University, which declared that “the quotes in the written text did not match the taped comments of the interviews and that the text was grossly distorted."

‫". The university statement on the matter is worth reading. It states:

"In actual fact, during the past few years, Dr. Pappe has transgressed all common ethical standards of academic life."

As he is a vociferous supporter of the Palestinian cause, describing this event as being from ‘An Israeli’s Perspective’ is therefore somewhat misleading as Ilan Pappe cannot be said to be representative of the opinions of most Israelis. When the event hosted last Friday is taken into account this issue becomes even more apparent and it can be seen that in some cases only one side of the debate is being presented.

On Friday 2nd December the Palestinian Society ran an evening entitled ‘The Life of a Palestinian in Israel’, which initially appeared to be counter-balanced by the event held the following week which would be from an ‘Israeli’s perspective’.The Palestinian in question was a man called Masoud Ganaim, a member of the United Arab List group in the Israeli Knesset. The group's ideology is listed as 'Islamist'.

Ganaim has also expressed controversial views in the past; being reported as saying that he is against “the Zionist movement and its racist ideas”.  In an interview in May 2010 he stated that “there is a need for the return of the Islamic Caliphate” and that in that situation Israel must be part of the great Islamic state”.

Whilst both of these speakers have the right to express these views it must be noted that this lack of balance promotes an atmosphere in which free and fair discussions on the issue simply do not occur.

At Student Rights we are keen to promote the idea that university events should stimulate debate and these one-sided lectures hinder this, and must surely dissuade those with opposing views from taking part. We would call on universities and their societies to recognise that balance is the key issue here, and that events such as this must allow both sides to air their views. This will then give students a better opportunity to express their opinions on campus without fear of opprobrium.