LSE union twins with Gaza despite protests

The London School of Economics (LSE) will be twinning its union with the Islamic University of Gaza, despite protest from students.

A motion which called for the twinning was carried after 161 students voted in favour and 131 against in a debate organised by LSE Palestine Society.

Students from the Israel Society protested outside with banners saying “Say yes to hummus, no to Hamas”.

The decision was made after Ben Grabiner, chairman of the LSE Israel Society, demanded a recount of the votes after allegations of fraud.

I am ashamed to be part of this union

Mr Grabiner appealed to the university’s constitution and steering committee and claimed that the ballot was “inconsistent” after voters were not correctly monitored.

According to Mr Grabiner, Mira Hammad, chair of the Palestine Society, had also expressed concerns about how the vote was handled.

But the committee found that “though not perfect, the procedures were fair and constitutional”.

Mr Grabiner said: “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.

“It is extremely worrying that our union is prepared to associate itself with a university that preaches such virulent hatred and antisemitism, and I am ashamed to be part of it.”

The Palestine Society argued that twinning the universities would “show solidarity with the students there who have had their campus bombed and their colleagues killed by the Israeli Occupation Forces”. It also urged that the union now lobbies the university to twin with the Islamic University and agreed to name a room in the new LSE student union building after a Palestinian student killed by the IDF.

Mark Wolfson, UJS campaigns officer, said: “The passage of the motion at LSE is particularly distressing for many 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.”

Ronnie Fraser, of the Academic Friends of Israel, said: “Implementation of such a motion can only make life more difficult for LSE’s many Jewish and Israeli students and academics.”

A spokesman for the Board of Deputies said: “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. Higher education institutions have a responsibility to ensure that they safeguard their students from alliances with extreme ideologies, including that of Hamas.”

Meanwhile, the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine has announced a series of lectures across the country, entitled “Israel, the Palestinians and Apartheid: the case for sanctions and boycott”.

The former South African cabinet minister, Jewish anti-Zionist Ronnie Kasrils, will be among the speakers.

Last updated: 5:03pm, December 3 2009