To date, Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland, has been trouble-free. There has been little sign of the anti-Israel problems that have been causing difficulties in some other campuses in the United Kingdom. But recently, the Muslim Society at the University has decided to join in the condemnation of Israel, which so often leads on to anti-Jewish diatribes and actions on campus.
On Monday last, posters appeared throughout the University noting that there would be a meeting to discuss the Israel/Palestine problem – ‘What’s it all about? Why did the conflict ever begin? What does Zionism mean? Is it all due to religion?’. There would be two guest speakers at the meeting. So far, so good. But while the meeting implied an academic discussion of the Israel/Palestine situation, the two guest speakers were members of the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign, and well-known for their anti-Israel views. No-one was scheduled to speak in support of Israel and the challenges it faces.
Faculty members of SPME wrote to Public Relations at Heriot-Watt, which advertised the meeting on their website, as follows –
We are most surprised that Heriot-Watt PR has advertised the Muslim Society’s meeting on Thursday 19 March. It is suggested that this will be a discussion of the rights and wrongs of the Israel/Palestine conflict. In fact, it will be no such thing. Both guest speakers at the meeting are members of the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign, and well-known for their anti-Israel views. There is no-one scheduled to speak in support of Israel and the problems it faces from Hamas, Hezbollah, and Iran.
The University is going down the same path as some other Universities in Britain, resulting in fears and worries from and threats upon Jewish and Israeli students, and those who have academic collaborations with Israeli Universities.
Please make it clear that this will not be an academic debate, and that the speeches will be one-sided.
We received a reply from PR –
Thanks for your email regarding this future event. We will state clearly in the event listing which group the guest speakers are from. And we would hope in future to exercise more care to identify guest speakers of events.
On this occasion, we have not managed to alter the event, but hopefully the next time it occurs we will be notified in advance and be able to influence arrangements. This shows that SPME members can affect what is going on in their campuses, if they keep their eyes open and take action to keep any debate concerning Israel honest and fair.
Howard Kahn can be contacted at: