Nov. 7, 2008
JONNY PAUL, Jerusalem Post correspondent in London , THE JERUSALEM POST
LONDON - The situation in Gaza will be compared to that in the Warsaw Ghetto under the Nazis, at a prestigious London university next week.
The Student Union at Goldsmiths college, University of London, is hosting an event on Wednesday titled "From the Warsaw Ghetto to the Gaza Ghetto."
The event is being organized by the Palestine Twinning Campaign, a student union group that won a vote last February to twin Goldsmiths with Al-Quds University's campus near Nablus and to offer scholarships to two Al-Quds students.
Speaking at Wednesday event will be Suzanne Weiss, a Holocaust survivor and member of the Toronto-based "Not in our Name: Jews against Zionism," and academic Ghada Ageel, who grew up in Gaza and now teaches Middle Eastern politics at Exeter University.
Jennifer Jones, the campaigns and communications officer for Goldsmiths' Student Union, is also an officer for the twinning campaign and supports the boycott of Israeli academia.
"The Students Union supports the event and we are formally hosting Suzanne Weiss. The Goldsmiths Staff Union (UCU) also support the Palestine Twinning and are therefore supporting the event," Jones said.
The warden of Goldsmiths, Prof. Geoffrey Crossick, said in a statement: "The warden wishes to make it clear that he has at no time given his support to the Public Twinning Campaign nor to the lecture planned for next week."
However, the twinning campaign says on its Facebook page: "The warden of Goldsmiths has also responded positively to our campaign and shown an interest in collaborating with the union on furthering the links we have made."
In an article titled "Holocaust survivor responds to Zionism," Weiss explained the ethos of her group: "In Canada, we have built a broad alliance for Palestinian liberation called the Coalition against Israeli Apartheid. 'Not In Our Name' is one of its Jewish sister organizations and stands for the right of Palestinians to return to their homeland.
"The coalition has launched a nationwide joint campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions against the Zionist State of Israel. Let's join in these and other efforts to liberate the Palestinians and to put an end to Israeli apartheid. Against imperialist wars and Zionist oppression in the Middle East!"
With imperialism a running theme in her politics, Weiss says it was also the root cause of the Holocaust.
"This Jewish Holocaust was a by-product of the catastrophic world wars in the last century which are linked to the social system that we call imperialism."
She goes on to compare Israeli policies to those of the Third Reich.
"In fact, the Zionist state uses many of the methods of Nazism to oppress the Palestinians, including confining them in walled ghettos," she wrote.
According to Weiss, the Jewish people are threatened by Israel.
"We are told that because Hitler killed the Jews, the Zionist state is needed today, supposedly to protect the Jewish people. But there is no Nazi threat against the Jews in Israel. Rather, the Jewish people are threatened by the aggressive policies of their own government," she wrote.
The university said in a statement that it had worked hard with the Student Union to ensure that all activities "focus on benefiting the wider student experience" at the college.
"Goldsmiths welcomes people from all cultures, religions and nationalities and encourages respect for all social and ethnic groups. The college and the Students‚ Union work hard to maintain an open dialogue with the student body and with presidents of all the student societies to continue to maintain positive relationships and to ensure that all activities focus on benefiting the wider student experience at Goldsmiths," the statement read.
Yossi Unterman, president of the Jewish Society at Goldsmiths, said the twinning campaign was led by a small number of "fanatic and obsessed" students alongside even fewer well-meaning but misinformed students.
"It is probably supported by only a small minority of students at Goldsmiths. The majority of students are against such one-sided politics of hate and just want to study and have fun, and don't get involved in drawn-out, boring Student Union meetings.
"This event is typical in that it adopts a totally one-sided and biased position, usually within a Marxist framework, but presented as unequivocal moral truth. The fact that people will get upset by the event does not bother the organizers one bit, in fact it probably encourages them," Unterman said.
The Union of Jewish Students has condemned the event, saying it cheapened the Holocaust for political gain.
"The Union of Jewish Students finds the premise and the title of this talk highly offensive and insensitive. While we welcome debate about the Middle East on campus, cheapening the experiences of the Holocaust for political point scoring is shameful. Over a hundred thousand Jews lost their lives in the Warsaw Ghetto as a result of the systematic abuse and genocidal intentions of the Nazi regime. Whatever your politics, these two situations are incomparable. We urge the union and university to think again about hosting this event," the union said in a statement.
The twinning campaign has a notice board in the main building of the university that some students say glorifies suicide bombing, The Jerusalem Post has learned. Students said it had pictures of a "martyr's" grave, suicide bombers and a child paying homage to pictures of "martyrs." At press time, the university said it would look into it.
Between 1941 and 1943, starvation, disease and deportations to death camps reduced the population of the Warsaw Ghetto from an estimated 450,000 to approximately 71,000. At least 56,065 people were killed during the ghetto uprising in 1943 or deported to German concentration and death camps, mostly to Treblinka, where most died.