By Liam Cassidy, @cashdee
QUB Palestine Solidarity Society has submitted a motion to the Students’ Union that, if passed, would mandate lobbying the University to establish a scholarship programme for Palestinian students. Furthermore, the motion would demand that Queen’s twin with a Palestinian higher education (HE) institution.
The motion was announced via the Society’s Facebook page on 20th April, and will be debated by Council at the next session on Monday 27th April.
The detailed copy of the motion calls on the Council to recognise, “with concern [,] that the punitive Israel occupation of the Palestinian Territories […] is soon to enter its 48th year”. The motion focuses on “the detrimental impact” that this has had on higher education in Palestine, and outlines a number of examples of the difficulties faced by Palestinian students.
The motion states: “Council believes that the idea any student must obtain a permit from an occupying military force in order to study at home or abroad to be wrong in both practice and principle. The permit scheme imposed by Israel is deliberately inaccessible and made highly complex so as to ensure total exacerbation and bewilderment for Palestinians, in particular those who openly express their opposition to Israel’s policies”.
Two exemplary incidents are outlined by the motion; one in which a student traveling from Gaza to the West Bank in 2012 to study law was denied exit permits, the second an Israeli raid and closure of a Palestinian school in East Jerusalem in 2012 as well. The motion calls for Council to “express outrage” at these human rights infringements as well as the “illegal […] wall and military bases that help to impose said permit regime above and beyond any reasonable or legitimate security needs”.
The numerous resolutions of the motion outline a long-term campaign to display solidarity with Palestinian students and achieve the ultimate aim: to twin Queen’s with a Palestinian HE institution and establish scholarship programs. The motion would mandate Council to “formally twin QUBSU with the Bethlehem Student Senate” and the elected student officers to “inform, educate and raise the consciousness of our students about the oppression faced by Palestinian students” as well as “lobby other Students’ Unions to take similar action”.
Current QUBSU councillors Paul Loughran and Ellie Drake submitted the motion to Council on behalf of QUB Palestine Solidarity Society. Loughran, next year’s incoming VP Community, explained, “the QUB Palestinian Solidarity Society approached me to submit a motion and after working together to come to a final draft of a motion, this was the end result.”
When asked what reception he expects at Council on Monday evening, given the contentiousness of the issue in past debates in Northern Ireland, he said, “The motion has received an overwhelming amount of positive support from people within and outside of the University, though some resistance come Monday is to be expected at Council. I think it’s incredibly important that this motion is looked at through a humanitarian lens by students, without any bias of Councillors’ party-political views.”
As regards to the potential twin relationship with Bethlehem University and other Palestinian institutions, the conversation has already begun, “there has already been some initial contact with Bethlehem University through the QUBPSS” according to Loughran, “and Bethlehem University have showed their support for the motion and its contents.”
While Bethleham University have expressed support for the motion, and Mr. Loughran hopes for to abandonment of party-political bias, only Council can reach a conclusion on the far-reaching implications of this motion.