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EUSA Statement on Palestine to remain

ByIlinca Barsan

Oct 23, 2014

‘EUSA For Peace’ motion falls at Student Council

A motion entitled ‘EUSA for Peace’, asking the sabbatical officers to retract their statements on Palestine, fell at the Edinburgh University Students’ Association (EUSA) Student Council meeting on Thursday night.

The motion fell with 70 votes in favour and 165 votes against the motion. Votes were cast in a secret ballot.

Due to the huge turnout of the evening, students voted remotely from the Loft Bar after the Dining Room filled up rapidly.

The motion, as previously reported by The Student, called on EUSA’s Sabbatical Officers to “withdraw their statement on Palestine with immediate effect, issuing a clarifying Press Release to indicate that this has been done.”

It argued that EUSA’s sabbatical statement over the summer was based on “prior policies that gave no direct mandate to Sabbaticals to issue the said statement.”

The first speaker in favour of the motion, Jann-Michael Greenburg, said: “We are here tonight to discuss a statement issued by sabbaticals with no mandate that has made many students feel excluded from debate.”

Greenburg further argued that the sabbaticals officers failed miserably to represent students on this matter.

First speaking against the motion was Eve Livingston, EUSA Vice President Societies and Activities (VPSA).

Livingston said: “When I look at this motion and the actions it proposes, this motion is mostly about immaterial condemnation. None of you would object to sending aid in the case of a natural disaster – how is this any different?

“I do also think that the agreement [of this motion] with the likes of Ed Miliband and Barack Obama shows that this is one of the least controversial things that EUSA has done in the last year.

“Its people’s lives that we’re talking about, we owe it to our Palestinian counterparts not to stand for it.”

The second speaker in favour of the motion argued that, whilst he had seen Israeli injustices in the West Bank with his own eyes, “the positives of the motion don’t infringe on activists rights”, as it proposed constructive and meaningful projects.

A second speaker against the motion argued: “Israelis, unlike Palestinians, have been allowed the privileges of access to jobs and education […] this motion doesn’t say anything new about safe spaces.”

Speaking in favour of the motion, Noga Szpiro, an Israeli student, said: “I’ve stopped saying I’m from Israel because I do not feel safe. After three years here, I’ve grown used to being treated with disdain.

“There is no audience for our voice, whatever you think about the conflict …the priority of EUSA should always be safety of their members.

“We should try and build a dialogue, find common understanding. We cannot achieve this by supporting one side blindly.

“Don’t just accept meaningless and one sided sabbatical statements. This motion prevents discrimination and will help people like me feel comfortable at this university.”

The last speaker against the motion, Faatima Osman, EUSA Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) Liberation Group Convenor, said: “We are here to support all members. Palestinians are still dying as a result of injuries sustained during summer Israeli military campaign.”

Osman also criticised that “the motion implied that Palestinians are all Muslim”, as well as conflated Israelis with Jews.

Speaking to The Student after the vote, Osman said: “I’d like to say that I’m immensely relieved the motion fell. To demand the retraction of the statement the sabbs made which simply condemned the deaths of over two thousand four hundred people is simply deplorable. The only way to achieve true peace is through justice and not by whitewashing history and attempting to place both sides as if they are on an equal footing.”

Theo Robertson-Bonds, the proposer of the motion and EUSA external affairs campaign organiser, told The Student: “Tonight, our union voted against our own safe space policy and ignored the stories of a minority of students out of political convenience, twisting the argument against the wording of the motion into a debate about Israel and Palestine.

“They voted against the basic principles of our democracy, against a policy to protect our students from anti-Semitism and islamophobia, and against EUSA playing a constructive part in the Israel/Palestine conflict.

“EUSA desperately needs reform so the rights, values and interests of all of our members can be protected, and I’m proud to have brought this issue to the table, fighting oppression with the help of J-Soc and Edinburgh Labour Students. I believe that our members deserve better than this, and I’ll continue to fight for their rights in the months and years to come.”


By Ilinca Barsan

Ilinca Barsan is a 4th year Sociology and Politics student. Formerly News Editor for The Student, she is now Editor-in-Chief. Ilinca also has a passion for smoked salmon, vintage shopping, all things digital, and puns beyond good and evil.

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