In late October, Student Rights reported on an exhibition memorialising dead terrorists at the London School of Economics (LSE) and criticised the Student Union (SU) for whitewashing the incident.
The exhibition, hosted by the LSESU Palestine Society, commemorated “victims” of Israeli aggression, while failing to mention that some of those listed had in fact been killed as they carried out stabbing and shooting attacks.
Student Rights criticised the SU for failing to take action against the Palestine Society, and for suggesting the society was under no obligation to provide the context in which these people had died.
As such, we were pleased to see that LSE had taken the issue seriously, responding with the following statement:
“The School was deeply troubled by the exhibition held by the Students’ Union Palestine Society.…The concern is that both the content of the exhibition and the manner in which it was displayed, together with related activities off campus and on social media, caused serious harm to relations between sections of our community on campus. The apparent celebration, even if unintended, of violence and perpetrators of violence caused significant distress to students who identify with victims of that violence.”
We felt the LSE was right to be concerned, and welcomed the recognition that support for violent individuals from student groups can damage campus cohesion.
Unfortunately, Nona Buckley-Irvine, General Secretary of LSESU, has since hit back at the university, labelling the statement as “unbalanced” and accusing the School of bowing to “external pressures”.
She also said “…it is deeply disappointing that the School has sought to engage with the political activity of a society”, arguing the issue had been dealt with by the SU.
Of course, the problem at hand is that the issue has not been dealt with; the SU misrepresenting the complaints as over the use of “graphic material” and excusing the commemoration of murderous terrorists.
This is reflected in Buckley-Irvine’s response, which claims having “agreed that graphic material should not be displayed in such visible areas” has solved the problem.
In response, the LSESU Israeli Society has said:
“We at the LSESU Israel society are appalled by Nona Buckley-Irvine’s shamefully biased and irresponsible statements following the recent commemoration of stabbers of innocent Israeli Jewish civilians by the Palestine society. Many students at LSE have friends and family that live in Israel and were horrified to see the names of those that would happily kill them ‘commemorated’ on campus (in an exhibition facilitated by their SU). Nona has consistently refused to apologise for the way the exhibition commemorated these stabbers of innocent civilians and has only apologised for the graphic images on display. In failing to do so she has shown no regard to the welfare of Jewish or Israeli students that she is also supposed to represent. Worse than that, when the school took up this issue due to the failure of the SU to deal with our complaints appropriately, she then condemned the school for doing so.”
The behaviour of the Palestine Society was unacceptable and the LSESU should have been at the forefront of challenging the commemoration of terrorists on campus.
Instead, it failed to accept there was a problem, and whitewashed the behaviour of the Palestine Society.
If a student union is to have any grounds to criticise its university for becoming involved in union governance issues, it must show it can deal with these issues effectively.
In this case, the initial reaction of the SU, as well as the petulant statement that followed, makes it clear it has no interest in resolving this issue, and as such can have no complaints about the reaction of the LSE.