UK student leaders have condemned the decision by Zefat Academic College to effectively prevent Palestinians from standing for student union president

The recent policy which prevents Palestinian students from running for the role of president in Student Union elections has led to widespread concern amongst student representatives in the UK for the welfare of Palestinian students studying at Israeli colleges and universities. ‘Palestinian-Arab citizens of Israel’ currently constitute around 60% of Zefat College’s student body.

Palestinian citizens of Israel are not required to complete National Service in the Israeli Military, and as a result are often in a disadvantaged position in several areas across society such as employment, where many businesses require that applicants have completed a minimum two years of Military Service.

The letter stresses that the Union’s decision ‘raises the wider question of the attitude towards Palestinian students […] at institutions such as Zefat College’. Student leaders in the UK have been shocked by the racism of the policy, particularly upon learning that 2012 is the first year that Palestinian students at the College have presented a group of students to run for several positions within the Student Union – including the position of President.

Critics of the policy have taken into account the wider issue of treatment of Palestinian students at Israeli colleges and universities. The ongoing campaign amongst dozens of municipal chief Rabbis to encourage Jewish property owners to refrain from renting property to Palestinian students in the city of Zefat due to a perceived ‘demographic threat’ posed to the Jewish community in the city has highlighted the racism to which Palestinian students are exposed on a daily basis. Eli Zvieli, an 89 year old holocaust survivor who rented out his spare rooms to 3 students in Zefat, was threatened with having his house burned down and deemed a traitor to Israel for his refusal to discriminate against young Palestinians.

The hostility towards these students is manifested not only in the policy recently adopted by Zefat College but also through daily intimidation and abuse of Palestinian students who attend the college.

The letter condemns the policy as one which ‘clearly targets Palestinian citizens of Israel’.
One of the major concerns of the signatories is that whilst the motion was passed through the Student Union, Zefat College has made no step toward challenging the decision.

The statement goes on to call for the policy to be revoked and for ‘Palestinian students to be granted the same opportunities to represent, and be represented, as their fellow students’.
Signatories of the statement include Liam Burns and Dannie Grufferty, who were last week re-elected as President and Vice-President (Society & Citizenship) respectively of the National Union of Students (NUS), as well as Union of Jewish Students and NUS committee member Rachel Wenstone and NUS Scotland President Robin Parker. The NUS is the confederation of Britain’s students’ unions, representing over 7 million students, although the statement has also gained support amongst Unions which are not affiliated to this body.

Students across the UK who are increasingly involved with the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign in defence of Palestinian rights on university and college campuses welcome the support of student leaders in the move to condemn Zefat College Students’ Union, hoping that this legislative example will highlight the extent of the xenophobia which Palestinians endure in every area of society.

The discrimination towards ‘48 Palestinians living in Israel is evident throughout State policy on education, land, housing and employment. Palestinians are massively underrepresented in the governmental and public sectors, and Palestinian men earn 42% less on average than their Jewish counterparts. Whilst this discrimination is explicit it is rarely challenged, and endless promises from successive Israeli governments calling for this inequality to be addressed ring hollow to the ears of the Palestinians living in Israel, who experience discrimination on a daily basis because of Israel’s foundational intolerance of the Palestinian people.

Earlier this year, NUS, ULU and KCLSU voted overwhelmingly on a BDS motion to condemn King’s College’s participation in the NanoReTox project due to the involvement of Ahava, a cosmetics company which uses resources from the occupied West Bank.
Burns described Ahava as being “deeply complicit with violations of international law, specifically concerning declaration of their products origins within occupied Palestinian territories”.

Below is the statement, which now has almost 150 signatures:

We, the undersigned, condemn the policy recently adopted by Zefat Academic College which requires that any individual who wishes to obtain candidacy in the Students’ Union president elections must have completed national service in the Israeli military. This requirement automatically excludes most Palestinian citizens of Israel.

As elected representatives at our own educational institutions, we understand the vital role that Student Unions play in ensuring the welfare of students. In order to create and maintain safe campuses and learning environments, it is essential that all students are represented throughout bodies such as Students’ Unions. To deny some students the opportunity to participate is clearly undemocratic, and is an impediment to the creation of a representative Student Union.

Whilst there may be some students studying at Zefat College who have not completed service in the Israeli military for various reasons, the policy clearly targets Palestinian citizens of Israel as the largest demographic within the student body who are unlikely to have served. The implicit racism of this policy is deeply concerning as it raises the wider question of the attitude towards Palestinian students who study alongside Israeli students at institutions such as Zefat College.

We call for the policy to be revoked, and for Palestinian students to be granted the same opportunities to represent, and be represented, as their fellow students.


Liam Burns (NUS National President)

Dannie Grufferty (NUS Vice-President Society & Citizenship)

Rachel Wenstone (NUS Vice-President Higher Education-elect and National Executive Council)

Michael Chessum (NUS National Executive Committee)

Mark Bergfeld (NUS National Executive Committee)

Usman Ali (NUS Vice-President Higher Education)

Robin Parker (NUS Scotland, President)

Graeme Kirkpatrick (NUS Scotland, Depute President)

Kelley Temple (NUS Scotland, Women’s Officer)

Kanja Sesay (NUS Black Students’ Officer)

Patrick O’Hare (St Andrews University, Student Union President)

Dominique Ucbas (University of Strathclyde, Student Union VP elect)

Sinead Dunn (Glasgow School of Art, Student Union President)

Matt McPherson (Edinburgh University Student Association President)

Mike Williamson (Edinburgh University Student Association VP Academic Affairs)

Phillipa Faulkner (Edinburgh University Student Association VP Services)

James McAsh (Edinburgh University Student Association President-Elect)

Max Crema (Edinburgh University Student Association VP Services Elect)

Andrew Burnie (Edinburgh University Student Association VP Academic Affairs Elect)

Shakira Akther (University of East London, Vice President Campaigns)

Stacey Hall (University of East London, Vice President elect)

Imran Hussain (University of East London, Vice President elect)

Hani Assi (University of East London, Vice President elect)

James Haywood (Goldsmiths University Students’ Union, President)

Jamie Woodcock (Goldsmiths University Students’ Union, Postgraduate Officer)

Lukas Slothuus (London School of Economics, Student Union Community and Welfare Officer)

Sherelle Davids (London School of Economics, Student Union Anti-Racism Officer)

Abdi-aziz Suleiman (University of Sheffield, Students’ Union President-elect)

Simon Furse (University of Birmingham, Vice President Education-elect)

Lois Clifton (London School of Economics, Student Union Environment and Ethics Officer)

Arianna Tassinari (SOAS, Student Union Co President Welfare and Education)

Amena Amer (London School of Economics, Student Union Education Officer)

Robin Burrett (London School of Economics, Student Union Postgraduate Officer)

Edd Bauer (University of Birmingham Guild of Students, Vice President Education)

Leander Jones (University of Birmingham Guild of Students Vice-President of Democracy and Resources


Luke Durigan (UCL Education and Campaigns officer; NUS Higher Education Committee)

Abigail Barr (Edinburgh College of Art, Student President.)

Matte Andrews (Glasgow Caledonian Univerity Student Association, President)

Pete Hollier (Glasgow Caledonian University Students Association, Vice President Activities)

Keri McDonald (Glasgow Caledonian Univeristy Students Association, Vice President Welfare)

Simon Ward (Glasgow Caledonian University Students Association, Vice President Education)

Nick Lowden (Glasgow Caledonian University Students Association, Vice President Activities elect)

Julia Mubrak (Glasgow Caledonian University Students Association, Women’s Officer)

Vasileios Omiros Vazos (Glasgow Caledonian University Students Association, International Students


Jaswinder Blackwell-Pal (Goldsmiths University, Palestine Twinning Officer)

Sean Rillo-Raczka (University of London Union current Vice-President & President-elect)

Thomas Johnson (VP Education Officer, University of East London students union)

Soren Goard (Education officer elect, Goldsmiths Students’ Union)

Aaron Kiely (NUS National Executive Committee)

Sara Moon (University of Sheffield: Development Officer elect)

Amy Masson (University of Sheffield: Women’s Officer elect)

Luke MacWilliam (University of Sheffield: Sports Officer elect)

Jonathan Gleek (University of Sheffield: Welfare Officer elect)

Alex Peters-Day (London School of Economics Student Union: General Secretary)

Stanley Ellerby-English (London School of Economics Student Union: Activities and Development Officer)

Lucy McFadzean (London School of Economics Student Union Women’s Officer)

Frances Bell (University of Glasgow, Gender Equality Officer-elect)

John Martin, (Stevenson College Edinburgh, President of Teaching and Learning)

Iain Kennedy (University of Dundee Students Association, President)

Stuart Fitzpatrick (University of Dundee Students Association, Deputy President)

Rachael Doherty (University of Dundee Students Association, Vice President of Student Activities)

Navid Gornall (University of Dundee Students Association, Vice President of Communications)

Daniel Stevens (NUS National Executive Committee)

Amy Rutland (University of Brighton Students’ Union, Vice President Academic Affairs)

Luke Frost (University for the Creative Arts Students’ Union, Maidstone Campus Officer)

Tim Joaquim (Northampton Students’ Union, President)

Michael T. Wilson (Petroc Student Union, President)

Alex Causton-Ronaldson (University for the Creative Arts Students’ Union, Epsom Campus Officer)

Imad Faghmous (University of Bradford Students’ Union, Academic Affairs Officer)

Claire Locke (London Metropolitan University Students’ Union, President)

Surya Prakash Bhatta (NUS National Executive Council)

Christopher Dingle (Kingston University Students’ Union, President)

Thomas B. French (University of Leicester Students’ Union, Campaigns and Involvement Officer)

Dennis Esch (NUS International Students’ Committee)

Gordon Maloney (Aberdeen Student Union, President for Welfare and NUS Scotland VP Communities


Pat Plested (University for the Creative Arts Students’ Union, Canterbury Campus Officer)

Sabuj Muhammad (University of East London Students Union, Vice-President Anti-Racism and


Michael Breckenridge (Queen Margaret University Edinburgh, Students’ Union President)

Jon Narcross (University of Sheffield Students’ Union, Education Officer)

Harry Horton (University of Sheffield Students’ Union, Finance Officer)

Sarah Charlesworth (University of Sheffield Students’ Union, Women’s Officer)

Zahid Raja (NUS Wales National Executive Council and Swansea University Students’ Union, Education


Lucy Bannister (Cleveland College of Art & Design’s Student Union, President)

Gerald Carew (Anglia Ruskin Students’ Union, President)

Liz Dobson-McKittrick (Anglia Ruskin Students’ Union, Academic Affairs Officer)

William Mohieddeen (University of Abertay Dundee Students’ Association, President)

Reni Eddo-Lodge (UCLan Students’ Union, President; NUS Higher Education Committee)

Ben Westhead (SUArts, President)

Fairooz Aniqua (SUArts, Culture and Diversity Officer)

Josh Alford (University of Bristol Students’ Union, VP Education)

Sophie Bennett (University of Bristol Students’ Union, VP Welfare and Equality)

Max Wakefield (University of Bristol Students’ Union, VP VP Community)

Paul Greene ( Robert Gordon University (Aberdeen) , Vice President Environment and Ethics

Fadi J. Dakkak (University of Sheffield, International Officer elect)

Richard Alderman (University of Sheffield, Education Officer elect)

Tom Dixon (University of Sheffield, Activities Officer elect)

Harriet Rankin (Leeds University Union Welfare Officer)

Reuben Kirkham (University of Nottingham Students Union, Disabled Students Officer)

Elliott Reed (University of Nottingham Students’ Union LGBT Officer)

Amos Teshuva (University of Nottingham Students’ Union, President elect)

Luke Mitchell (University of Nottingham Student Union Democracy and Communications Officer elect)

Mike Dore (University of Nottingham Students Union Equal Opps and Welfare Officer elect)

Lucky Dhillon (University of Glasgow, Race Equalities Officer)

Garry Quigley (University of the West of Scotland Student Association, President)

Manoj Kumar Iyer (Middlesex University Students’ Union, President)

Shreya Paudel (Middlesex University Students’ Union, President elect)

Fariya Anis (Middlesex University Students’ Union, Vice President Academic)

Michelle Dsouza (Middlesex University Students’ Union, Vice President Activities and Communcations

Amy Westwell (University of Glasgow, School of Humanitites Rep-elect)

Paul Challinor (University of Glasgow, Sexual Orientation Equality Officer-elect)

Jennifer Ingram (University of Nottingham, Women’s Officer)

Shabina Raja (University of Nottingham, Black and Minority Ethnic Officer elect)

Rob Scully (City University London Students’ Union, President)

Amina Vora (University of Nottingham, Black and Minority Ethnic Students’ Officer)

Aidan Mersh (Hull University Union, President)

Alex Murray (Kent University Union, Vice-President elect)

Josh Wright (Deputy President, Liverpool Guild of Students)

Ruth Brewer (Vice President, Liverpool Guild of Students)

Chidinma ‘Chi-Chi’ Nwokoro (Liverpool Guild of Students, Student Representative Officer-elect)

Bob Sutton (Vice President, Liverpool Guild of Students)

Charlie Hopper (Leeds University Union, Equality and Diversity Officer)

Dean Smith (UCA Students’ Union, Rochester Campus Officer)

Aurora Adams (Edinburgh University Students Association, International Students’ Action Group


Callum Leslie (Edinburgh University Students’ Association Welfare Convener)

Andrew Walker-Smith (Edinburgh University Students’ Association Business School Representative)

Mike Shaw (Edinburgh University Students’ Association Student Council Editor)

Beti Scott (Edinburgh University Student’s Association Equal Opportunity and Liberation Officer-elect)

Susannah Compton (Edinburgh University Students’ Association, Women’s Action Group Convener)

Kate Harris (Edinburgh University Students’ Association, LGBT+ Action Group Convener)

Ebony Ruggero (Edinburgh University Students’ Association Ethics and Environment Officer)

Rose Bonner (University of Nottingham Students’ Union, Women’s officer-elect)

Rosie Tressler (University of Nottingham Students’ Union, Equal opportunities & welfare officer)

Hannah Horne (Northumbria University Students’ Union, Vice President Welfare & Equality)

Ruby Hirsch (University of Glasgow, Race Equality Officer – elect)

Iain Smith (Glasgow University SRC, VP Media and Communications)

Amy Johnson (Glasgow University SRC, VP Student Support)

James Harrison (Glasgow University SRC, VP Learning and Development)

Dave Walker (Glasgow University SRC, School of Life Sciences Rep)

Alan Daly (Glasgow University SRC, Age Equality Officer)

Gill Hope (Glasgow University SRC, School of Culture and Creative Arts Rep

Florian Weber (Glasgow University SRC, UG College of Arts Convenor)

Jani Helle (Glasgow University SRC, International Officer)

Niamh Smith (Glasgow University SRC, General Representative

Caitlin Rushby (Glasgow University SRC, General Representative

Hera Hussain (Glasgow University SRC, UG Social Sciences Convenor)

From International Socialist Group site and originally published by We Are All Hana Shalabi


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