One of the UK’s most prestigious universities is set to “twin” with the Islamic University of Gaza after its student union voted in favor of the move.
The London School of Economics (LSE) is set to link up with the Gaza institution after the student union passed a motion – 161 students voted in favor and 131 against – calling for the twinning.
The motion was put forward by the school’s Palestine Society and called “To twin this union with the Islamic University of Gaza to show solidarity with the students there who have had their campus bombed and their colleagues killed by the Israeli Occupation Forces.”
The motion also calls for a room in the new student union building to be named after a Palestinian student killed by the “Israel Occupation Forces.”
The motion relied on an array of sources from organizations such as Amnesty International, United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, Action Palestine and other pro-Palestinian activists, who accuse Israel of an array of human rights offenses, including killings and torture.
However the proposer of the motion, Samer Araabi, maintained the motion was “not about Israel and Palestine, but about the right to education for all people.”
Opponents of the motion maintained that the Islamic University is a Hamas stronghold and has been used to launch attacks on Israeli population centers.
During the vote, students opposing the motion joined members of LSE’s Israel Society in a protest with banners saying “Say yes to hummus, no to Hamas.”
Following the vote, there were accusations of fraudulent voting after voters were not properly monitored.
“The way in which this motion, debate and vote have been handled has been a disgrace to the LSE Students’ Union which has once again managed to alienate large sections of the student body,” said Ben Grabiner, president of the LSE Israel Society.
“It is extremely worrying that our union is prepared to associate itself with a university that preaches such virulent hatred and anti-Semitism and I am ashamed to be part of it,” he said. “The LSE Israel Society will continue to campaign for a fair debate on campus and the rejection of extreme, divisive actions.”
In a statement, the LSE said it was the student union, an entirely separate body, that voted to seek such a twinning, not the university.
“The resolution passed by the general meeting of the students’ union expresses its own views and does not represent those of the London School of Economics and Political Science,” an LSE spokesman said.
The spokesman added that the vote “in no way commits LSE to any particular course of action.”
Grabiner is currently appealing to the university’s Constitution and Steering Committee, claiming there was widespread voting fraud after safeguards were not in place to ensure a “free and fair” vote.
“It is quite clear that safeguards were not in place to ensure a free and fair election and there is evidence of attempts to commit voting fraud and also evidence to suggest that there were not sufficient, consistent rules in place to prevent it,” Grabiner said in a letter to the committee, appealing for a recount.
“Your committee has a huge responsibility in this issue. I urge you not to shy away from making this important decision. You must uphold the democratic values of our students’ union.”
Grabiner told the committee that the chair of the Palestine Society, Mira Hammad, also raised concerns over the faulty proceedings.
“The passage of the motion at LSE is particularly distressing for many students,” said Mark Wolfson from the Union of Jewish Students. “It is shocking that a student union should support and endorse such an illiberal and regressive institution. This serves to alienate students at the LSE and heighten ignorance on the conflict.”
“It seems clear that this twinning motion is less about showing support for Palestinians and more about a reckless endorsement of a university where extremism is endemic,” the Board of Deputies of British Jews said.
“Higher education institutions have a responsibility to ensure that they safeguard their students from alliances with extreme ideologies, including that of Hamas.”
The LSE Student Union has been twinned with A-Najah University in Nablus since 2007.