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King’s College London and KCLSU Release Statements on Israel-Palestine Conflict

Israel Palestine KCLSU King’s College London
London March for Palestine, original photojournalism by Shaheena Uddin

In posts uploaded between May 19 and 20, King’s College London and the KCLSU released statements on the issue of recent violence in Israel and Palestine.

The College’s statement, entitled “Global engagement in Middle East”, primarily outlines the nature of King’s financial and collaborative investments in the region. Regarding the university’s ties to academic institutions in both countries, the College states: “Knowledge is worldwide. It is critical then that access to education and research, together with freedom of speech and enquiry is not restricted by virtue of geographical location of individuals or institutions with which UK universities, including King’s, and their academics may wish to collaborate or associate.

”We have a strong commitment to upholding the values of freedom of expression, and enquiry, enabling safe platforms for free, peaceful and respectful dialogue. […] In line with these guiding principles […] we accepted in 2018 both the definition of antisemitism proposed by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) and a recognised definition of Islamophobia.”

The statement’s section on College financial investments in the region states that “all our investment are in line with our policies and procedures”. These guidelines include the stipulation that King’s will only invest in funds rather than individual companies, will not “directly invest in areas such as fossil fuels and tobacco”, and will “not hold investments in any firms involved in controversial weapons”.

This comes after widespread criticism of King’s connections with businesses and higher education centres in Israel. According to research conducted by Demilitarise King’s, the College has invested in General Electric through the BlackRock fund, which has sold equipment to Israel via US military aid programmes. Additional data sourced from FOI requests and provided by the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign lists King’s as having invested a total of £5,237,074 in “complicit” companies. Roar has contacted the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign for further information pertaining to their database and the information therein.

King’s statement ends with a section entitled “Community Support”, telling students: “We are fully committed to promoting equality of opportunity at King’s and creating an inclusive environment where everyone is valued and able to succeed. We must come together as a community to tackle the wrong and unfair behaviours we see and to contribute to the university achieving its goal to be an anti-racist UK university – both in words and action.”

The KCLSU Student Officers’ statement, released on May 20, opens with a statement of “full solidarity” with the Palestinian people, alongside linked sources: “We are saddened to see the recent brutal acts of violence, most recently including the forced evictions of families in Sheikh Jarrah and attacks on worshippers in Masjid Al-Aqsa during the holy month of Ramadan. Occupation in Palestine by Israeli forces has resulted in ethnic cleansing and recognised apartheid globally, and this last week has highlighted the severity of this.

”[…] However, Palestinian activism is no excuse to exercise any hatred. We acknowledge that the Jewish community have received hateful and anti-Semitic comments and they should not be blamed for the actions of a foreign state. We want to be clear that the critique of Israel’s actions is not to be conflated with anti-Semitism, which we do not condone. […] KCLSU have a strict zero-tolerance policy on bullying and harassment and we do not condone any anti-Semitism, Islamophobia or hate crime towards our students or staff. Student safety is our top priority and if you have been a victim of such attacks, bullying or harassment, get in touch with KCLSU Advice, KCL Chaplaincy or complaints.”

The statement also includes links to Students for Justice for Palestine, Decolonising Palestine, and the National Demonstration for Palestine due to be held on May 22. The Officers “eagerly await KCL’s statement on the situation, where actions are promised, not simply empty concerns around welfare”.

King’s has historically been a site of contention regarding the Israel/Palestine conflict. During a 2014 KCLSU General Meeting, students voted 348-252 in favour of “a global campaign to put non-violent pressure on Israel over disputed Palestinian territories”. Despite this, the KCLSU later announced that the motion “would not be implemented”, with then-president Sebastiaan Debrouwere stating: “The Board] decided that the motion as democratically approved by Student General Meeting should stand as a record of the majority view expressed on the issue, but that we should not act on the resolves, given the laws that govern us as a charity and our wider objectives as a charity.”

In 2019, KCL Action Palestine protested a talk hosted by the KCL Israel Society attended by Eyal Dror, a retired Israel Defence Forces (IDF) Colonel. During a visit to Bush House by the Queen in the same year, students linked to organisations such as Action for Palestine were denied access to the building, with their information allegedly passed on to the Met Police.

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