By Liam Cassidy, @cashdee
At a recent meeting, Student Council passed a motion that mandates lobbying the University to establish a scholarship programme for Palestinian students and twin with a Palestinian higher education (HE) institution.
The motion was the subject of extended debate at Council on Monday 27th April, only passing by a slim margin and after an amendment was made to dissociate VP Education Hannah Niblock from the lobbying efforts.
The detailed copy of the motion called on the Council to recognise, “with concern [,] that the punitive Israel occupation of the Palestinian Territories […] is soon to enter its 48th year”. It focused 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 stated: “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. The motion called 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. It mandates 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. Mr 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.”
Before Council’s meeting on Monday 28th April, Mr. Loughran 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.” Ellie Drake echoed this sentiment at Council on the night and said, “we have a duty to uphold fundamental solidarity to all students”.
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 Mr. Loughran, “and Bethlehem University have showed their support for the motion and its contents.”
There was plenty of resistance to the motion and it was subject to lengthy debate with multiple speakers in support of and opposing it. There was movement to vote to suspend the motion indefinitely, as one councillor deemed it “unnecessarily divisive”, but this failed.
As a result of the prolonged debate, VP Education Hannah Niblock, made a motion to amend the motion to dissociate herself from lobbying obligations as this would distract from her core work.
This amendment was approved, and the motion passed with a slim margin.