Students are outraged as the beginning of second semester meets the removal of the ‘Palestine and the Right to Education’ plaque from Manchester’s Students’ Union
Last term a referendum was held in the Students’ Union leading to a policy passing four main things: For the Students’ Union to twin with the Al-Najah National University in Nablus, for the Union to lobby for scholarships for Al-Najah students to study here at Manchester, for solidarity with Al-Najah University, and to retain the plaque in the Student’s Union declaring this policy.
1000 voters took part in electing this policy as part of a fairly carried-out democratic process, which was the second largest referendum turnout ever for the Students’ Union. The policy was passed with an overwhelming 75 per cent majority vote in favour of carrying out the four proposed policies.
However, the plaque has now been moved across to a different pillar in the Students’ Union due to claims from the Students’ Union that threats of legal action were received from external forces. They were said to have sought legal advice and lawyers advised them to remove the plaque.
Instead, the plaque has been downsized and placed in a less visible area of the Students’ Union. There is also a screen projection in the Students’ Union displaying all of the union’s policies.
A statement from the Students’ Union Executive Committee explained: “We would firstly like to make clear that the statement has not been removed; it has been temporarily moved and is currently on the pillar next to its previous placement. The Union is continuing to carry out all of the actions contained within the policy.
“We received a legal challenge on the legitimacy of the statement as to whether our position is accommodated for within our charitable objectives.
“We are sorry that this has not been communicated earlier—as stated, due to legal advice being sought we were constrained in our ability to explain the processes.”
Action Palestine has since received a letter from students in Gaza expressing their sorrow: “We are saddened that you failed to empathize with us and break through the silence imposed on our voices, to stand against what the United Nations Special Rapporteur John Dugard described as the only remaining case after South Africa, ‘of a Western-affiliated regime that denies self-determination and human rights to a developing people and that has done so for so long.’”
Tasfia Salek, Treasurer of Action Palestine is outraged, since the Union failed to raise awareness of these issues before removing the plaque.
Salek said: “The trustee board, of which the majority have been elected to represent us, has blatantly disregarded the will of the student body. It’s extremely unfortunate that the Students’ Union has so easily been scared into submission by external lobbying and overturned our vote.
“This has completely undermined the structures of student democracy and we urge the union to reassess this decision, and vote to reinstate the plaque which expresses what is already enshrined in international law.
“More importantly, representing the interests of students is part of its own stated objectives.”
However the Students’ Union, in response to Salek’s comment, have stated that the claims being made in regards to the trustee board are factually inaccurate. The trustee board have not made any decision on this matter and it is the elected Executive Committee who made the decision in regards to the implementation of the policy.
They continued that any decisions made in regards to policy implementation have been made by the Exec Team and not any of the Trustees.
Action Palestine is continuing to lobby the Students’ Union for the plaque to be moved back to its original place.