A statement released today signed by more than 100 student leaders in the United Kingdom condemns a recent decision by Zefat Academic College that effectively bars Palestinians from running for election for the post of student union president. It is worth noting that the UK’s National Union of Students endorsed divestment from companies complicit in the Israeli occupation earlier this year.
A decision taken by the student union at the college on 18 April has made running for the union’s top post conditional on having served in the Israeli military.
“It is clear that the decision aims to exclude Palestinian students, since Palestinians don’t serve in the Israeli army,” Khulood Abu Ahmad, a student at Zefat College, told The Electronic Intifada.
This step is only one in a long series of discriminatory and racist practices which Palestinian students at Zefat College have been confronting in recent years — including a rabbinical decree instructing Jewish residents in Safed not to rent houses to Palestinians, violent attacks on Palestinian students and the burning of their cars.
UK student leaders’ statement
According to the We Are All Hana Shalabi website, the below statement now has 130 signatures (read the signatures here):
We, the undersigned, condemn the policy recently adopted by Zefat Academic College which requires that any individual who wishes to obtain candidacy in the Students’ Union president elections must have completed national service in the Israeli military. This requirement automatically excludes most Palestinian citizens of Israel.
As elected representatives at our own educational institutions, we understand the vital role that Student Unions play in ensuring the welfare of students. In order to create and maintain safe campuses and learning environments, it is essential that all students are represented throughout bodies such as Students’ Unions. To deny some students the opportunity to participate is clearly undemocratic, and is an impediment to the creation of a representative Student Union.
Whilst there may be some students studying at Zefat College who have not completed service in the Israeli military for various reasons, the policy clearly targets Palestinian citizens of Israel as the largest demographic within the student body who are unlikely to have served. The implicit racism of this policy is deeply concerning as it raises the wider question of the attitude towards Palestinian students who study alongside Israeli students at institutions such as Zefat College.
We call for the policy to be revoked, and for Palestinian students to be granted the same opportunities to represent, and be represented, as their fellow students.