Students from the University of Edinburgh have gone on hunger strike to join activists across Europe, in solidarity with the nearly 1,600 Palestinian prisoners who are currently on hunger strike.
Earlier this week students and non-student groups from England, Scotland, Ireland, Spain, Belgium, Switzerland and Italy announced that they were joining 1,560 Palestinian prisoners who have been on hunger strike for over two weeks.
University of Edinburgh student Daniel Yahia said he was on hunger strike to protest against the treatment of Palestinian prisoners by Israeli authorities and over the university’s unethical investment in corporations that support the Israeli occupation.
Yahia told MEMO that the University of Edinburgh has invested in a number of corporations including Caterpillar that are “highly influential in maintaining the apartheid regime”.
He raised several complaints against the university, which he accused of supressing pro-Palestinian activism while favouring pro-Israeli groups.
Last April the student union voted for [Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions] BDS, which was democratically pushed through, despite intimidation from the right and Zionists. A few days later… external pressure led the university to reverse this democratic process.
The motion to support BDS was passed on 31 March by 249 votes for and 153 against, with 22 abstentions, giving a majority of 74. The board of trustees of the University of Edinburgh Student’s Association, however, refused to enforce the BDS policy.
This is only one of the many ways in which the University of Edinburgh discriminates against pro-Palestine activism.
“As soon as Palestine is involved, censorship intensifies,” he explained, pointing to the cancellation of an event he was organising during Israel Apartheid Week. He told MEMO that on the day of the first Apartheid Week event on 20 March, the Communist Society, of which he is a member, was told that it could not hold the events on campus because the communist society was not affiliated with the Students’ Association.
Yahia accused the university of making up falsehoods as the society had held numerous events within the university even though it is not a member of the Students’ Association. He also mentioned that pro-Israeli groups boasted how “pressure from above” led to the event being cancelled.
Accusations of double standards and discrimination did not end there. Yahia also mentioned a row with the university over membership of the Students’ Association. He said that the application by the Communist Society to join the student body was declined twice while the Israel Engagement Society was accepted into the union within 48 hours of its application.
A University of Edinburgh spokesperson told MEMO: “The University would always be very concerned by any proposed hunger strike, and would urge anyone considering this to consider their own health very carefully and take professional advice about the implications of such a course of action. We believe that the most constructive way for students to raise concerns is through our established representative channels such as the Students’ Association”.
We place great value on free-speech, tolerance and mutual respect of people, no matter what their ethnic, religious or racial status. We welcome and promote discussion of current affairs, which sometimes involves highly contentious matters, and, as part of that, we recognise the right of students to freedom of expression and protest, providing any protests are safe, law-abiding and peaceful and debate is conducted within a framework of dignity and respect.