Dear Professor Nancy Rothwell
It has come to our attention that the University of Manchester plans to host an event co-organised by the Israeli embassy and the Zionist Federation, to celebrate 100 years since the Balfour Declaration on Tuesday 31st October at 7.30pm. By agreeing to this, is the University oblivious that the event you will be hosting, will celebrate the Declaration that lead to the expulsion of 800,000 Palestinians from their homes and the destruction of over 400 villages during al-Nakba in 1948?
Is the University unaware that the Balfour Declaration ultimately led to massacres of innocent people, and the ongoing illegal occupation of the West Bank and Gaza for 50 years?
This perverse celebration compounds the University of Manchester’s existing institutional and investment links with Israeli institutions complicit in war crimes.
Only a few weeks ago, an investigation by the Guardian exposed how the University censored student-organised Palestinian solidarity events after meeting with the Israeli embassy. Now, news of this event makes clear that the University is more committed to continuing its relationship with the embassy of a repressive state than it is to accountability and duty of care to its own students, faculty and staff.
Britain’s colonial occupation of Palestine since the First World War was not a benign intervention. Not only was it violent and unwelcome, the British 1917 Balfour Declaration was the green light for those seeking an Israeli state to plan for the forced removal of the indigenous Palestinian population. During British rule, Ben Gurion, the future first Israeli Prime Minister, said in 1937 “We must expel the Arabs and take their place”. In 1947-48 this was carried out in a well-planned ethnic cleansing operation that involved mass expulsion, murder and imprisonment, and the destruction of hundreds of villages.
This is now well documented by Israeli historians and soldiers from the time, as well as the Palestinians, many of whom still have the keys to their homes but for decades since have been denied their right to return.
Celebrating the Balfour declaration is a mockery of the suffering of the Palestinian people, and is greatly disrespectful for Palestinian students at the university who have, alongside their families, been forced to live their entire lives under the boot of the Israeli army. Would you not consider for a second listening to Palestinian students’ experiences as they relay a life of having their university bombed by Israeli F16s, losing university class mates to Israeli snipers or having their whole house demolished to be expelled for not being the desired ethnic group by Israel leaders? This celebration of their loss illustrates the appalling double standards and disdain the University is showing towards Palestinian students and Israel’s abominable treatment of them.
Given that there will be so many at this event who have served in the Israeli army that violently dominates every living moment of Palestinian students’ lives, it is obvious the environment created by this event is unsafe for Palestinian students, many of whom have suffered directly at the hands of the Israeli security services. A large number of students have expressed fear for their safety with Israeli security personnel roaming our campus. By allowing this event to take place and hosting the Israeli embassy, the university is failing to uphold its basic duty of care to staff and students.
The implications are doubly grave both for Palestinians studying now at the University and to the idea that universities should not be a place for celebrating colonialism and racism.
We demand that the University of Manchester cancel the event at the earliest opportunity.
UoM Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Campaign
UoM Action Palestine
UoM Arab Society
UoM Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism!
UoM Sri Lankan Society
BME MCR (the campaign for Black and Minority Ethnic students at the University of Manchester)
UoM Marxist Society
UoM Tamil Society
UoM Islamic Society