Portsmouth & Palestine - University Twin? “La tqool la lemghanni ghanni illa tayghanni la7aaloh". Let the singer sing, when ready

Portsmouth Students Vote on Palestine: | March 23, 2007

By Ben Norman

On the 22nd March two Motions were presented to the student’s Union council calling for an end to investment in the arms trade and for support for Twinning Portsmouth University with Ar Ram College in Palestine.

The first motion to be put before the students called for the University to implement an ethical investment policy which means that student’s fees will no longer be invested in the Arms trade. CAAT (Campaign against the arms trade) launched its clean up our universities campaign and published a list of all universities who invest in companies such as BAE systems, Lockheed martin or Smiths Aerospace who manufacture weapons. Until this year Portsmouth had no invested in the arms trade but it seems that this was due more to circumstance then intention as the University has recently invested £23,000 or 3% of its total investment in Smiths Aerospace (SA). SA manufacture the rotary blades of apache gun ships, used as weapons of terror in Gaza and the West bank. They also manufacture targeting equipment for the challenger two tank and the Euro fighter, a squadron of which were recently sold to Saudi Arabia. The passing of this motion sends a strong message to John Craven that Portsmouth students will not allow their money to be spent on weapons of War, weapons which have been used to target and murder innocent civilians.
The second motion called for support for the Portsmouth-Palestine Twinning initiative. This motion passed almost unanimously and gave campaigning students a clear mandate to push ahead to twin Portsmouth with Ar Ram college. Ar Ram is a town on the road between Jerusalem and Ramallah. This road is of vital strategic importance to the Israelis as it connects the capital to the largest town in the West Bank. In fact Ar Ram was the first town to be occupied when the Israeli army invaded the West Bank in 1967 and so epitomises the forty-year occupation.

This week also witnessed the first positive development of the Palestinian humanitarian crisis with the creation of the Palestinian coalition government and the recognition of that government by Norway. The infighting between Al Fatah and Hamas has crippled the Palestinian authority since Hamas won their surprise election victory last year. After months of bitter political stalemate and violent street clashes delegates from both parties held a crisis summit in Saudi Arabia and brokered a power sharing deal.
The recognition of this coalition government by Norway could also have strong implications. Unlikely as it may seem Norway have been a strong player in the recent history of the campaign. The Oslo accords, which saw the PLO officially recognised by Israel was orchestrated by Norwegian diplomats. Norway has also been a key provider of economic aid until the Hamas election and the economic boycott. Whilst Norway is not a member of the EU it is understood that the European Union, Russia and the United Nations will follow the Norwegian precedence and reinstate the much needed economic aid. This would leave only the American and British governments which continue to not recognise the Palestinian government.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all those students who have been involved in the Portsmouth-Palestine campaign and to all those who are continuing to take this project forward.

By Ben Norman
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Below are the motions which have now been passed:

Union council Motion: Portsmouth-Palestine twinning initiative:

This Union believes:

• The occupation of Palestinian territory in the West Bank and Gaza is the longest military occupation in recent history. This year will mark the 40th anniversary of the 1967 war, which saw Israeli troops first occupy this territory.

• The construction of the West Bank partition wall is an act deemed Illegal by both the United Nations and the International criminal court in The Hague. It illegally transcends the borders agreed by the United Nations in 1963 and is tantamount to an act of Apartheid by the Israeli government.

• The partition wall besieging the West Bank is three times the size of the Berlin wall, and stretches the same distance that lies between London and Zurich.

• The security barrier surrounding Gaza has turned the city into the world’s largest open prison and alongside the closure of the airport and the naval blockade of the port amounts to economic sanctions against one of the poorest regions on earth.

• The Partition wall has cut though Palestinian land, residential areas, schools and universities thereby destroying homes and livelihoods. The wall has cut though the middle of East Jerusalem University resulting in students having to risk their life to attend lectures.

• Since the start of the Intifada in 2000 the IDF has commended most schools, colleges and universities in Gaza thus outlawing education for many Palestinians

• The cutting of aid from the European Union, the United Kingdom and the United states has added to occupation and resulted in a humanitarian crisis in the Palestinian territory.

The Union resolves:

• To support the Palestinian right to Education in recognition of the fact the education is the key to understanding and peace, not hatred and violence.

• To Twin with a university or educational institution in the occupied Palestinian territory following the efforts of students in the Portsmouth to Palestine twinning initiative pioneered by the Arab society.

Union council Motion: Campaign against the Arms Trade:

This Union believes:

• In 2006 the British government though the office of the DESO (Defence export service organisation) sold £24 million of military aid to Israel in the form of cluster bombs, surface to air missiles, tank parts and landrovers. These weapons were then used in the invasion of Lebanon in August 2006 against civilians in actions, which the United Nations deemed as war crimes.

• That British companies such as Caterpillar which are not directly in the arms trade profit directly from the Israeli occupation of Gaza and the West Bank. Caterpillar continues to sell D-9 Bulldozers to the Israeli defence force with the knowledge that they are being used to destroy the houses of Palestinians and the construction of the West-Bank partition wall.

• That the British government uses the offices of the DESO to send military aid to support despotic regimes around the world. This includes the continued sale of Land rovers and tank parts to Turkmenistan and Burma.

• That since 2003 the British government have indirectly armed paramilitary death squads in Columbia by selling weaponry to the Columbian government. These paramilitaries continue to carry out acts of intimidation, kidnap and murder against trade union members as is the case of the murdered Coca-Cola workers in 2003.

• That at this moment Portsmouth University is the only university not to invest directly in the Arms trade. This situation however is due to circumstance not intention.

The Union resolves:

• To join the Campaign against the Arms trade (CAAT) initiative to “clean up our universities” by making it official policy not to invest in the arms trade or companies which profit directly from the oppression of people. I.E BAE Systems or Caterpillar. Money from students should not be invested in companies who profit from the military oppression of innocent people.

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Got to start somewhere. Can't sit on the fence anymore or should there be a fence at all?

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