Queen’s University statement on Middle East ‘not good enough’ – group

A statement by Queen’s University Belfast on the conflict in the Middle East is “not good enough”, a group has contended.

The university issued a statement after meeting with stakeholders earlier in the week to hear the views of the community.

The Palestine Assembly at Queen’s staged a sit-in on campus at the same time as the meeting on Tuesday, and urged the university to end all ties with universities in Israel, to “condemn Israel’s mass killing of Palestinians and deliberate destruction of Gaza’s educational infrastructure” and offer sanctuary status to Palestinian academics and students.

Israel-Hamas conflict
Members of the Queen’s University Belfast Palestine Assembly hold a ‘sit in’ in the main Lanyon building of the campus in Belfast on Tuesday (Niall Carson/PA)

It outlined a commitment to freedom of expression, the right to hold a range of views and right to protest.

It also pointed out that on March 17, the president and vice-chancellor, Professor Sir Ian Greer, publicly called for an immediate ceasefire in the Palestinian territory of Gaza, and he has repeated that plea.

The university also said it recently announced support for both academics at risk and Palestinian students through fellowship and scholarship programmes, and will “strongly support a programme to restore educational structures in Gaza as soon as this is possible”.

This is to include an offer to establish a partnership with a university in Palestine.

The university went on to say it is committed to “promoting equality of opportunity, good relations and respect for diversity and inclusion on campus”.

“In line with our Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Policy, the university is opposed to all forms of unlawful discrimination which includes antisemitism and islamophobia and will seek to ensure that all staff and students are treated fairly and with dignity and respect.

“As stated in our policy, there is a zero tolerance approach to all forms of discrimination, bullying and harassment, particularly where it arises as a result of any protected characteristic.”

Responding, the Palestine Assembly at Queen’s said it welcomed elements of the university’s statement, but it “falls short of what is needed”.

The group referred to a statement made by Trinity College Dublin earlier this week as going further.

“Trinity has agreed, by comparison, to end all relationships with Israeli suppliers and to divest from all Israeli companies as well as those operating in the occupied Palestinian territories,” they said.

“The tax-paying public here demands full disclosure of the nature of collaborations with Israel happening on its doorstep – complete transparency, and nothing less, is now required.

“QUB’s Palestine Assembly insists that the university must begin with the question, ‘What are our responsibilities in the face of genocide?’

“We want our vice chancellor and chancellor to clearly condemn the onslaught happening before our eyes, and to take a firm and unequivocal stand against Israeli occupation, which is incompatible with academic freedom.

“In an institution that values learning as an essential element in democratic culture, neutrality cannot be used as cover for equivocating in the face of genocide.

“At the very least, the immense suffering in Gaza demands of academic institutions worldwide complete transparency; unequivocal condemnation of genocide; unwavering solidarity with those experiencing scholasticide.

“Only by doing so can this university place itself on the right side of history.”

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