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Saturday, 17 January 2009
Continued: NUS Black Students' Officer condemns the failure of the NUS National Executive to condemn the slaughter in Gaza
please circulate widely
NUS Black Students' Officer condemns the failure of the NUS National Executive to condemn the slaughter in Gaza
As Israel's overwhelming military attack on the people of Gaza continues with devastating consequences, NUS should do all it can to support those working to end the military onslaught.
Unfortunately, at an NUS National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting on Wednesday, a majority of NEC members refused to clearly oppose Israel's overwhelming acts of military aggression and commit NUS to taking action to bring an end to the violence in Gaza.
Instead NUS NEC has adopted a policy that fails entirely to acknowledge the disproportionate, brutal slaughter of the people of Gaza, the fact that over 1000 Palestinians, including at least 322 children, have died since the conflict began, and the humanitarian crisis that has developed in Gaza with its borders sealed imprisoning the population and reducing supplies of essential medicines, fuel and food to far below the minimum necessary.
The NES NEC has also failed to support any of the protests called in opposition to the war in Gaza, failing to represent the views of the great majority of British students who are horrified by the carnage they see every day on TV.
Bellavia Ribeiro-Addy, NUS Black Students' Officer said: "The position of the NUS NEC is in stark contrast to the views expressed by United Nations officials, British MPs, the British trade union movement, the International Committee of the Red Cross, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, UNICEF and numerous aid agencies.
On Wednesday the UN special rapporteur for the Palestinian Territories, Richard Falk, stated that "There is a well-grounded view that both the initial attacks on Gaza and the tactics being used by Israel are serious violations of the UN charter, the Geneva conventions, international law and international humanitarian law."
Over 100 MPs have signed a motion which "expresses outrage at Israel's overwhelmingly disproportionate use of force in Gaza which continues to inflict massive civilian casualties, particularly amongst children and which has involved strikes on aid convoys, United Nations schools and medical personnel." MPs have called for meaningful action to be taken – including calling for an arms embargo, and for the EU to demonstrate that its trade agreement with Israel is conditional on Israel respecting human rights.
The European Union has also taken action, suspending further negotiations on upgrading its relations with Israel, as the head of the European Commission delegation to Israel suggested it was "not appropriate" to continue discussions while Israel was "using its war means in a very dramatic, in a powerful way in Gaza."
Over 570 Jewish signatories have placed an advert in The Times, calling for action, including an immediate ceasefire, end to the blockade, investigation into possible war crimes, the suspension of the EU-Israel association agreement and an arms embargo to Israel.
The humanitarian crisis in Gaza continues to worsen. Yesterday the headquarters of the United Nations refugee agency (UNRWA) in Gaza was bombed by what UNRWA believe to be white phosphorus shells. The use of white phosphorus as a weapon is prohibited under international law.
Already a majority of Gaza's residents have no clean water, electricity supplies are limited, and meagre supplies of food and medical equipment are being exhausted.
I do not believe the NUS NEC is representing the views of the great majority of British students when it blankly refuses to condemn the slaughter of civilians by Israel and demand their withdrawal and an end to the blockade of Gaza. Any student, student union or society opposed to NUS NEC's position on this issue should email Wes Streeting, NUS National President (firstname.lastname@example.org), and urge him to ensure NUS reconsiders its approach.
Students should also participate in local protests being organised across the country every weekend, including on Saturday 17th January, and many other occasions bringing their banners to show where students really stand on this issue. They can also pass motions in their students' unions calling for an immediate ceasefire, the lifting of Israel's blockade and for NUS NEC to adopt this policy and support public protests."
Please find below copies of the motions discussed at Wednesday's NEC meeting – the first motion is the one submitted by myself and two other NEC members, which was rejected. The second motion is the one adopted by NUS.
End the humanitarian crisis in Gaza for an immediate ceasefire and end to the siege [This motion was rejected by NUS]
NEC Believes: 1. Over 770 Palestinians have been killed during the first thirteen days of Israel's military offensive in Gaza, and over 3000 more have been injured. 4 Israelis have been killed and 32 injured by Hamas rocket attacks. 2. On Tuesday 6th January over 40 Palestinians were killed when an Israeli air strike hit a United Nations school. Earlier that day three people were killed when another UN school was attacked. On Sunday 28th December the Islamic University of Gaza was attacked, destroying buildings housing laboratories and other educational facilities and severely disrupting the education of over 20,000 students. 3. Israel's air-strikes and ground invasion have created what the International Committee of the Red Cross has described as a "full-blown humanitarian crisis". The United Nations, and several aid organisations have also warned of a humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Over a million Palestinians are denied access to electricity and clean water, and Save the Children has reported a "severe shortage of food." The World Bank has warned of a public health crisis, as almost the entire population of Gaza has been left without clean water, and the sewage system is on the brink of collapse. 4. This humanitarian crisis currently faced by the Palestinian people of Gaza is exacerbated by Israel's blockade of Gaza that has continued for over eighteen months. The blockade prevents people moving freely in and out of Gaza, and prevents vital supplies including food and medicine from reaching the people of Gaza. 5. The UN relief agency Unrwa has been forced to suspend its aid operation, as according to their spokesperson: "Our installations have been hit, our workers have been killed in spite of the fact that the Israeli authorities have the co-ordinates of our facilities and that all our movements are co-ordinated with the Israeli army." 6. The basis for a settlement to the immediate conflict is clear, Israel must end its military attacks, withdraw from Gaza and end the blockade of Gaza allowing normal movement of goods and people and Hamas must ensure that all rocket attacks from Gaza cease. 7. The Universities and Colleges Union has called for an immediate ceasefire, and for Israel to lift its blockade of Gaza. 8. Tens of thousands of people protested against the attacks on national demonstrations supported by the Northern TUC, Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, Jews for Justice for Palestinians, Tony Benn, Ken Livingstone, Annie Lennox, Alexei Sayle, Brian Eno and many others.
NEC resolves: 1. To call for an immediate ceasefire - an end to Israel's attack on Gaza and an end to Hamas rocket attacks – and for an end to Israel's siege of Gaza. 2. To support the demonstrations calling for an end to Israel's attack on Gaza, and circulate information on these demonstrations to Constituent Members.
Supporting our members in international conflict [This motion was passed by NUS]
NEC Believes: 1. The ongoing crisis in the Middle East is a tragedy which must be stopped through peaceful resolution and an end to violence. 2. Although the Middle East conflict is one of the most complicated and difficult in the world there are peace initiatives in place which could bring about an end to the violence with enough commitment from all parties. 3. The victims in this conflict are the moderate innocent civilians on both sides who overwhelmingly support peace based on a two-state solution. 4. The conflict in the Middle East stirs up great emotion across the world and that is often translated onto campuses across the United Kingdom. 5. No international situation should result in a racist backlash in this country and we have a responsibility to protect our members from any such racism. 6. NUS President Wes Streeting was correct in saying that "we shouldn't pretend that NUS can speak with one voice on the complexities of this conflict." 7. The situation in Gaza is changing on a daily basis 8. This conflict should not be characterised as Jewish people versus Muslim people
NEC Further Believes: 1. There must be an immediate ceasefire including an end to Hamas rockets and the Israeli military operation with the aim of re-starting the peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. 2. The loss of innocent life on both sides of this conflict is tragic and world leaders have a responsibility to ensure that this senseless loss of life is brought to an end in both the short and long term. 3. Both sides should do all they can to ensure the right to education 4. Education can and should play a vital role in bringing about a peaceful resolution to the conflict. 5. That Hamas is a terror organisation as defined by, amongst others, the European Union, and that is has consistently opposed peace initiatives in the Middle East preferring instead the path of violence based on vicious anti-Semitism. They are banned by the UK Government 6. There has been an unacceptable rise in anti-Semitic incidents during the current round of fighting 7. NUS must do all it can to avoid any sort of racist backlash or deteriorating relations between groups of students as a result of an international conflict.
NEC Resolves: 1. For the NEC to officially endorse the statement on the NUS website and the comments made by National President Wes Streeting. It reads We call for an immediate ceasefire - an end to both Israel's military operation and to Hamas rocket attacks. NUS also condemns the significant disruption to education that has been caused by the conflict to both Israelis and Palestinians. The right to education is a human right as stated in the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights and it's a right we must defend. Education will be central to finding a peaceful resolution in the Middle East. Deeply concerned Wes Streeting, NUS National President said: "We are deeply concerned with the escalating violence in the Gaza strip and Southern Israel and the devastating impact on the innocent Palestinians and Israelis who have lost friends and loved ones and those who live in fear. World leaders must pull out all the stops and pile on the pressure to bring peace and security to the region in both the short and long term. We stand in solidarity with Israeli and Palestinian students in calling a for an immediate ceasefire - an end to Hamas rocket attacks and the Israeli military operation and a fair, just and lasting peace between the Israeli and Palestinian people." Support If you are an Israeli or Palestinian student at a UK institution affected by this crisis, please contact your local students' union for support or contact NUS to seek further guidance and support. 2. To re-affirm our commitment to a peaceful two-state solution in the Middle East and doing all we can as a national union to support those involved in dialogue and negotiations and to oppose those who try to derail them. 3. To publicly condemn incidents of anti-Semitism and support those students who have been affected. 4. To support our members who are directly affected by the conflict either through their inability to leave the region or who face a backlash on campus because of their nationality, religion or race. 5. To write to the President of the Stop the War Coalition, as a fee paying affiliate, and express our concern over some of the anti-Semitic actions, chanting and placards which we have witnessed at recently organised StWC demonstrations