I’ve been trying to keep an open mind about the Palestinian twinning initiatives – they seem to be used to exclude Israel, but then again if they can help to normalise Palestinian academic life, then that’s got to be a good thing. A motion to twin with a Palestinian institution was passed here last term.
This morning a friend who is also a student here forwarded me a notice which appears to be from the Student Union Campaigns Offier urging students to attend a meeting tomorrow so that they can vote against what the notice terms a ‘counter-motion’.
This ‘counter-motion’ is in favour of a tripletting and proposes “To twin [my institution] jointly with a Palestinian and an Israeli university which run such shared initiatives ” (i.e. existing Palestinian-Israeli relationships). In this respect it doesn’t appear to be a counter motion at all, but a more inclusive extension of the original motion. However, the proposer of the original motion prefers to present it as such, and responds in the notice that “‘twinning’ is a way of expressing solidarity with people suffering an injustice … no Israeli university is subject to the kind of collective punishment being inflicted on all the occupants of the occupied territories.”
For this person supporting Palestinians is to be expressed in terms of excluding Israel. The strongest message from the notice (besides the one that it’s OK for a Student Union Officer to tell members how to vote) is that twinning only works if somebody is left out, and as such solidarity with an Israeli institution would entirely undermine the idea of solidarity with a Palestinian one – in fact the person considers the two actions mutually exclusive. But for them to be mutually exclusive would mean that the Palestinian twinning were nothing more than a gesture of solidarity with Palestinians which depends on a gesture of rejection of Israel. And that would be something I couldn’t go along with, because it’s entirely divisive and contradicts the inclusiveness and trust-building I’m trying to support. If I’m wrong and there’s a proposal to offer our Palestinian twins something more substantial and constructive than remote goodwill, and if I’m called upon to be involved (still more unlikely), I dare say I’ll help. But as it stands, I can’t get behind this twinning and the way that notice is worded inclines me to oppose it. If I were a student I’d be voting in favour of the second (tripletting) motion.
I passed this on to staff round here who like to know about these things. Worrying that the proposer of the second motion was going to get a lot of hostility, one of us emailed him offering the only support that we as staff can offer – somebody to talk to.