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Row over EUSA stance on Israel-Palestine

ByThurston Smalley

Aug 11, 2014

A bitter dispute over the Edinburgh University Students’ Association’s (EUSA) decision to condemn Israeli military action in the Gaza strip came to a head Saturday as both sides doubled down on their arguments.

Dan Scott Lintott, Editor-in-Chief of The Journal and a previous Editor-in-Chief of The Student, had written a series of scathing articles calling into question the propriety of EUSAsabbatical officers’ decision to issue a joint statement in support of Palestine.

Scott Lintott had also criticised EUSA President Briana Pegado’s choice to sign the statement despite her admitted disagreement with its contents.

Pegado said that EUSA policy forced her hand, as “the policy of the organisation usurps any personal views.”

But Scott Lintott said she should “act with integrity”, and dismissed her stance as a product of her potential desire to enter US politics, where unconditional support for Israel is a basic prerequisite for electoral success.

He told The Student: “My aim in publishing the articles was to point out the hypocrisy and confusion that is now apparent amongst the sabbatical team on the Israel/Palestine issue.

“The article merely states the policy, the statement the Sabbs made and their subsequent defence. It’s clear to see the inconsistency between these, but importantly the issue at hand could be replaced by any other one and the way they acted would still be irresponsible.”

The debate hinges on the interpretation of two EUSA policies.

The first requires EUSA to lobby the University of Edinburgh to divest from companies that are “complicit in the Israeli occupation, the siege on Gaza and discrimination against the Palestinian population within the declared state of Israel.”

The second policy requires EUSA to “condemn the persecution of students and student unionists in Palestine” and to “raise awareness” of the issue.

Scott Lintott argues that the absence of any mention of divestment or student unionism in EUSA’s statement means that it was issued improperly and should be withdrawn.

He told The Student: “The statement issued didn’t mention students or student unionists once. I have no idea why people still fail to understand this. Is it really unclear?”

Pegado declined to make a personal statement to The Student, but the sabbatical team issued a new joint statement Saturday reiterating their condemnation of Israel and support of Palestine.

It said: “We stand by our decision to issue a statement in solidarity with the people of Gaza and condemning the actions of the Israeli government.

“This was a unanimous decision by the sabbatical team because we felt the policies we have in place give us strong indication of the student view on this issue.

“Over 1,000 students voted to divest in companies complicit in the Israeli occupation because they don’t support the occupation itself and over 350 students have recently signed a petition calling for us to take a stance on the current situation.

“We know the Israeli/Palestine issue is complex, but the latest actions are so disproportionate that we were compelled to speak up and give our support to the people of Gaza affected by the conflict.

“We are not alone in being moved by the latest crisis. Glasgow City Council has taken the decision to fly the Palestinian flag over the City Chambers this week, and the Disasters Emergency Committee have just launched an appeal for funds to aid the victims of this humanitarian crisis.

“We will continue our own fundraising efforts and wait to see if this latest ceasefire will bring an end to the crisis.”

Scott Lintott said: “I don’t think there is any doubt that the Sabbs were not only outside their remit, but either unsure or misleading about the reasoning behind the [first] statement they made.

“If they want to make a statement that is using their discretion then that’s fair. But if this was the case why didn’t Briana give her own view on the issue instead of consistently citing a policy that is unrelated?”

The row follows international criticism of Israel’s military action in the Gaza strip.

By Thurston Smalley

Thurston is a final year French and politics student from Chertsey, England. He first wrote for his high school newspaper, The Phillipian, in 2009. He began writing for The Student in 2011, became News Editor in 2012, and Editor in Chief in 2015. He currently serves as President.

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