Written by Student Rights on 20 March 2012 at 1pm

Partisan panel includes suicide bombing supporter at Kingston University

The recent controversies over speakers being invited onto campuses by university Palestine Solidarity Societies looks set to continue this week as an event at Kingston University gives a platform to both Dr Azzam Tamimi and Baroness Tonge.

Organised by a number of groups at the university including the Palestinian Society, the Islamic Society, the History Society and the Debating Society, the event is in conjunction with the University’s Global Festival Week and is called ‘Apartheid Israel’. It will discuss the issues of settlement, the security fence and of the Israeli authorities “ethnically cleansing” Jerusalem.

With no attempt to balance the panel, it is unlikely that this will be a genuine debate, and the nature of the speakers invited is enough to raise deep concerns about who Kingston University is allowing to speak unchallenged in this way.

Dr Tamimi is a firm supporter of Hamas, a group designated by the UK government as a terrorist organisation, saying at Queen Mary in February that “I have a great honour to be close to Hamas” and that “all the leaders of Hamas are my friends”. He has also expressed support for suicide bombing, declaring in a BBC interview in 2004 that he would “do it if he had the opportunity”.

He has also been filmed declaring his support for “the great jihad of Hezbollah” and “the great jihad of Hamas and Islamic Jihad” and believes thatIsrael has no right to exist”. Whilst Student Rights do not advocate banning speakers from campuses, the fact that this man will be allowed to address students unchallenged is deeply worrying.

To compound this problem, Dr Tamimi will be sharing a platform with Baroness Tonge, who recently resigned from the Liberal Democrats after Student Rights reported that she had said that “Israel will lose its support and then they will reap what they have sown”.

She has consistently drawn criticism over her views on the conflict, and was sacked as the Liberal Democrat Children’s Spokesman 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 refused to apologise for this comment, and in 2006 was also 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”.

After being criticised for meeting the leaders of Hamas and Islamic Jihad in 2009, she was also sacked as the Liberal Democrat Health spokeswoman in the House of Lords 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."

The final member of this partisan panel will be Michael Deas, the Europe coordinator for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement which seeks to “strengthen and spread the culture of boycott as a central form of civil resistance to Israeli occupation, colonialism and apartheid”. He has also written for the Electronic Intifada website, and only adds to the lack of genuine dialogue that is likely to be the result of this event.

Here at Student Rights we have highlighted the way in which student societies host events with extremist speakers like Dr Tamimi, and then make no effort to balance them. Allowing individuals to spread hatred in this way polarises the debate and creates an atmosphere in which students are never exposed to a critical appraisal of their views, surely the point of university. We hope that Kingston University will investigate this event and highlight this issue to their students.