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Written by Student Rights on 22 February 2012 at 12pm

Dr Azzam Tamimi heads partisan panel at Queen Mary

The divisive effect that the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians has on university campuses across the UK has been well documented by Student Rights in recent weeks, with the violent scuffles that broke out at the London School of Economics on Monday serving as a case in point. In an increasingly polarised atmosphere, the organisation of provocative protests and highly partisan events is having a detrimental effect on campus cohesion.

We are therefore concerned by an event that has been organised by the Queen Mary University Palestine Solidarity Society for next Tuesday 28th February. Called ‘One State or Two State Solution’, the event will feature three speakers including Dr Azzam Tamimi, a man whose extreme views Student Rights have drawn attention to in the past.

Most famous for declaring in 2004 that he would “do it if he had the opportunity” when questioned over his support for suicide bombings, he has also been filmed declaring his support for “the great jihad of Hezbollah” and “the great jihad of Hamas and Islamic Jihad”. As well as this, he has frequently denied the legitimacy of the Israeli state, saying that “for the Palestinians it is impossible to recognise that what happened to them in 1948 was legitimate” and thatIsrael has no right to exist”.

It is bad enough that Tamimi, a supporter of an anti-Semitic terrorist group like Hamas, should be invited onto a campus to speak, as he was at Loughborough University last November. However, what is worse is that not only will there be no balance to his hate filled views, but that the panel he will speak alongside have all declared outspoken opposition to Israel in the past.

The panel also includes the disgraced Liberal Democrat peer Baroness Tonge. She was sacked as Liberal Democrat Health spokeswoman by Nick Clegg in February 2010 for giving credence to allegations that Israeli Defence Force (IDF) relief workers were harvesting human organs, saying that, "To prevent allegations such as these - which have already been posted on You Tube - going any further, the IDF and the Israeli Medical Association should establish an independent inquiry immediately to clear the names of the team in Haiti."

This was not her first controversy regarding the conflict though. In 2003 she was sacked as the Liberal Democrat Children’s spokeswoman by Charles Kennedy after she stated of Palestinian suicide bombers that "If I had to live in that situation - and I say that advisedly - I might just consider becoming one myself." She resigned as an MP after this incident, yet in 2006 was severely reprimanded by Sir Menzies Campbell after saying that she felt the Pro-Israel lobby had “got its grips on the world”, something which Campbell said had “clear anti-Semitic connotations”.

Filling the final seat on this biased panel will be Professor Haim Bresheeth, an Israeli academic at the University of East London. Bresheeth is an opponent of a two state solution, describing the idea as “a fig leaf used by Zionism and its western supporters... it was used to control and cajole Palestine, to cover up the continuation of the oppression and military occupation, and to support the continuation of the Israeli settlement of Palestinian lands.

He has also stated that the War on Terror is “a war waged by proxy against Arabs and Islam” and that “Israel is totally free to bomb just about anywhere it chooses, kill just about anyone it wishes, destroy the whole infrastructure of Lebanon, murdering more than 1000 people...[yet] it is the other side -- always the other side -- that is blamed.” There is nothing wrong with holding these views, yet he should by no means be presented as holding an Israeli perspective on the conflict, as Ilan Pappe was at Surrey University last December.

Regardless of whether you agree with these views, to present this panel as one which will be able to have a serious “discussion of solutions to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict” is laughable, and yet is something seen far too often. Here at Student Rights we have frequently called for panels at events like this to be balanced yet student societies continue to load their panels to suit their own opinions. This event goes further than most by inviting Dr Tamimi, and we will be contacting the university authorities about this in order to register our concern.