Tom Hurndall, a Manchester Metropolitan University student, was shot and killed by an Israeli sniper in April 2003. Hurndall was a photographer, and a member of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), an organisation that use non-violent protest against the Israeli military in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Hurndall had been observing and protesting near Rafah refugee camp, in the Gaza Strip, when shots were fired. Photographic evidence of the incident shows that Hurndall was unarmed and was dressed in the bright orange jacket of ISM, indicating he was non-military.
According to witnesses, Hurndall was steering three Palestinian children away from machine gun fire that was getting dangerously close. A single sniper bullet hit Hurndall in the head, and put him in a coma that he never emerged from. He died in January 2004, aged 22 years old.
An annual lecture has been established to memorialise Hurndall’s life, and to celebrate the ideals that he supported. This week, the sixth annual Tom Hurndall Memorial Lecture will take place at Lecture Theatre C0.14 of John Dalton Building of MMU on Wednesday 10 November at 6pm.
The speaker will be Karma Nabulsi, a University of Oxford lecturer and award-winning academic, speaking on ‘Overcoming Fragmentation: Palestinian Refugees and the Right of Return.’ Nabulsi is the co-founder and trustee of the HOPING Foundation a charity which raises awareness of Palestinian refugee youth and sponsors art, music, scholarships, education and sport for young Palestinians in refugee camps across the Middle East.
Nabulsi tells The Mancunion that: “Tom Hurndall represents all that is best about the great British tradition of liberty and the struggle for justice and dignity. His commitment, courage, and love of life reminds us of the universality of human rights for all peoples – Tom’s decision to drop everything and go to Gaza to stand by Palestinians there, his generous gesture, encapsulates the principles we all hold dear. We salute him, he represents the best.
“I am going to speak about the issue of the Palestinian dispossession in 1948 [at the lecture], the Nakba, and how it is so important to understand as the means of reconciliation for the peoples of that land. In order to understand what is happening today in Palestine, it is crucial to understand that the majority of the people in Gaza today are refugees from 1948.
“The fate of the Palestinian refugees, the core of the conflict, needs to be understood more than ever now, especially as the official peace process does not begin to address the issue with the dignity and humanity the victims of this conflict deserve.”
Professor Ian Parker, who is organising the event, said: “The memorial lecture is an occasion for colleagues at Tom’s university, MMU, to honour his brave decision to spend time working for the Palestinians, a decision that sadly cost him his life.
“Tom’s family have supported this lecture series since its foundation in 2005, and since the lectures’ inception in 2005 we have had Arab and Jewish speakers speaking out against injustice committed against Palestinians,” added Parker.
Hurndall kept a journal throughout his travels and one of his final entries read: “What do I want from this life? What makes you happy is not enough. All the things that satisfy our instincts only satisfy the animal in us. I want to be proud of myself. I want more. I want to look up to myself and when I die, I want to smile because of the things I have done, not cry for the things I haven’t done.”
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