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February 22, 2016 12:49 pm

Middle East Peace Initiative Sponsored by Pro-Israel Group at Cambridge U Rejected by Pro-Palestinian Students Favoring ‘Israeli Apartheid Week’

avatar by Andrew Pessin

Middle East Peace Week, Cambridge University. Photo: Faceboook

Middle East Peace Week, Cambridge University. Photo: Faceboook.

The pro-Israel sponsors of a student peace initiative at Cambridge University in the UK bemoaned the refusal of pro-Palestinian counterparts to participate in the week-long series of events, which comes to an end on Monday night.

Joel Collick and Jonathan Shamir, co-presidents of the Cambridge University Israel Society, told The Algemeiner that though the other group was invited to “Middle East Peace Week,” it refused “and called on other societies to not get involved. It was stressed on our part that they could still partake in [their own] Israeli Apartheid Week as the weeks do not clash. However, they would not change their mind.”

Collick and Shamir concluded, “[W]e would comment that a general theme in UK [universities] is that Israel societies are more open to dialogue and engagement, while Palestine societies prove time and time again that they are not interested.”

The Cambridge University Palestine Society (CUPalSoc) defended its decision not to participate in the peace initiative — which was also adopted by the university’s Arab Society, Middle East Society and Turkish Society.

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“We made this decision on the basis that the only way out of the current stalemate and the first steps towards a viable peace is through demanding that Israel be held accountable for its crimes and that it abides to its obligations under international law,” a representative of CUPalSoc explained to The Algemeiner.

Consistent with that belief, they said, they were focusing on organizing Israeli Apartheid Week at the university, an effort “to organize talks, debates, exhibitions and screenings that raise awareness of the apartheid policies practiced by the state of Israel against the Palestinian people.” Israeli Apartheid Week commences tomorrow with a public debate over the statement, “This House Believes that the Academic Boycott of Israel is Justified.”

Nor is it an accident, they claimed, that Israeli Apartheid Week kicks off the day after Middle East Peace Week concludes. “We feel that there is no coincidence in the Israeli society’s timing of the Middle East Peace Week… We feel that this event attempts to direct attention away from the growing success of Israeli Apartheid Week.”

The aim of Middle East Peace Week, the Israel Society’s Collick told Britain’s Jewish News, was “to make students look at the Middle East in a new light, beyond conflict and bloodshed.” He also told The Tab, a student website, “We want to set a precedent by working together on common issues and challenges. In setting such a precedent … the prospects of peace will itself be more likely.”

The series was co-sponsored by the university’s Kurdish and Persian Societies, its Calais Refugee Action Group and OneVoice Cambridge, a group promoting a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It was set to conclude Monday night with a panel discussion called, “Looking Forward — Peace in the Middle East: Is it possible?”

Collick and Shamir told The Algemeiner that they had hoped other universities in the UK would join in their attempt at bridging gaps, “But this didn’t happen in the end.”

They said they are eager to spread similar initiatives on campuses across the United States.

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