This week has seen ICU's Political Philosophy Society (PPS) hold a "Conflict Case Study Week", with the launch event causing conflict of its own. The line-up for the launch event, on the Israel/Palestine conflict, was to include Professor David Newman (Ben-Gurion University) and Dr Azzam Tamimi (Director of the Institute of Islamic Political Thought, London).
This line-up began to cause controversy last Friday, when Professor Newman was shown footage of Dr Tamimi apparently voicing his support and admiration for suicide bombers. Newman withdrew from the debate, refusing to share a platform with someone who condoned suicide bombing. His decision was reported in the popular Jerusalem Post and other Israeli media. At the event the society issued a statement condemning the standards of journalism used by the Post, claiming it was an attempt to "malign the reputation of [their] society, [their] university and all speakers involved". The full statement is at the end of this article.
ICU PPS arranged for an alternative speaker to Dr Tamimi, which allowed Prof Newman to rejoin the panel, with the event going ahead as planned. However, this change caused controversy in itself, with the event organisers receiving a series of angry emails from those who thought Dr Tamimi should have been allowed to speak, containing accusations of pro-Israeli bias and Islamophobia.
The pre-event controversy spilled over into the event itself, with some attendees demanding an apology for the treatment of Dr Tamimi and one even saying "...I also support suicide bombing, in that case".
Dr Tamimi has been invited to another PPS event in the near future.
The society issued at a statement at the event which they have asked Felix and Live! to publish:
Regarding the launch event in our ?Conflict Case Study Week? entitled ?Israel/Palestine?, the panel was not as it was originally advertised and Dr Azzam Tamimi was replaced by Ghada Karmi. This change in speakers took place to carry on with the event as we originally intended it to be, where representatives from all countries would be present, which would not have been possible with the original panel due to some irresolvable differences.
The sad fact is that some inaccurate and hasty reporting from the Jerusalem Post made the situation worse in what we feel was an attempt to malign the reputation of our society, our university, and all speakers involved. We would like to protest such poor journalism and will do what it takes to clear our name. We have also received criticism about limiting freedom of expression and being sensitive to external influence. To that effect, we would like to make it known that an offer to appear at a debate in the near future has been made to Dr Tamimi and he has accepted.
The Imperial College Union Political Philosophy Society reserves the right to call upon any speaker it chooses to in its endeavor to promote a fair and free exchange of dialogue and ideas.
Ammar Waraich, ICU Political Philosophy Society