Abdel Bari Atwan to speak at SOAS tonight
Here at Student Rights we have written before on the way in which events organised by student Palestinian Societies frequently give speakers on the issue unopposed platforms without considering the consequences of such actions.
Tonight will be no different, as Abdel Bari Atwan, the editor of Al-Quds Al-Arabi newspaper, addresses students at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS).
Called ‘Register me: I am Palestinian’, this event has been organised by both the SOAS Palestine Society and the General Union of Palestinian Students. It once more highlights the polarisation on campus of debate surrounding the Middle East conflict.
This was illustrated all too well at SOAS in March last year, when a counter-protest by pro-Israel activists at an event resulted in one student being punched and bitten.
At the same time an individual was reported to have said that “the best thing the Jews have ever done was go into the gas chamber. It was the best thing to happen to Germany to have been cleaned of Jews. The same thing needs to happen in the Middle East”.
Violent clashes were also seen at the London School of Economics in February 2012 when pro-Palestine protesters violently attacked individuals who had thrown water-bombs at their mock checkpoint.
It should also be remembered that when Atwan spoke at the LSE in December 2010, he refused to condemn Hamas terrorism, and Jewish students present were called ‘Nazis’ by a member of the audience.
Atwan’s previous comments have also included a statement that he would “go to Trafalgar Square and dance with delight” if Iranian missiles hit Israel. He also suggested that a gun attack on an Israeli religious school which killed eight students, all but one of whom were aged 18 or under, “was justified” as the school produced “Israeli extremists and fundamentalists”.
Despite these comments, Atwan is actually a supporter of non-violent resistance, yet his fiercely polarised opinions create division on campus. Here at Student Rights we support his right to address students but would urge the Palestine Society to consider the negative impact that his talk may have on campus cohesion, and to attempt to balance any such debates in future.