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SOAS Occupation Condemns Award Winning Exhibition

Jan 19 2009 10:49
Kirsty Patterson
The Pro-Palestine occupation of the Brunei Gallery by SOAS students has labelled an award winning Ministry of Defence Exhibition as 'racist'.
Liberated not Occupied

The Award Winning Ministry of Defence Exhibition 'We Were There' has become the subject of criticism and occupation by students from the Stop the War Group at the London School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS). On display at the Brunei Gallery the exhibit was a "tribute to the contribution made to our defence by military and civilian personnel from what was then the British Empire and later the Commonwealth" and won an award for Race in the Media in 2002. Launched in November 2000 the exhibition has toured the UK educating school children and visitors about the sacrifice and contribution of ethnic minorities to the British Armed Forces in over 200 years.

The group of around twenty students, who entered the gallery at 6pm on the 13th January and declared it 'occupied' 'liberated', reopened the exhibit in a rearranged format. They contended that the exhibition "ignores the reality of the ethnic minority experience within the British army".

The occupation has been followed by further occupations by students at the LSE and Essex Univeristy. The demands made by the students include a call for their institutions to condemn the Israeli militray attacks on Gaza with the tagline of 'Students in Solidarity with Gaza'.

SOAS have declared the occupation as a victory after the university management conceded to 'significant demands' including a five-year ban on military presence on campus in line with policy passed at a SOAS General Meeting. The occupiers have also negotiated free use of the gallery for the rest of the year claiming that the MoD were given the use of the exhibition space for free despite students needing to cough up over £1000 a day to use the gallery.

Imperial College Union are running a 'Peace Wall' for Israel and Gaza in the Sherfield Foyer as a collaboration between several clubs from the Social Clubs Committee and Overseas Societies Committee. The wall is an opportunity for students to come together with their messages for peace. Deputy President (Clubs and Societies), Lily Topham, expressed her concern that some of the messages such as 'Anti-Israel' are not portraying the right message for a Peace Wall but organisers are worried that censoring the wall would be a bad move. Meanwhile, there is a current movement at UCL trying to reinstate the Student Military Organisations on campus in a motion to the next UCL AGM on the 3rd February. The first attempt to overturn the ban was found to be short of quorum.

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Discussion about “SOAS Occupation Condemns Award Winning Exhibition”

The comments below are unmoderated submissions by Live! readers. The Editor accepts no liability for their content, nor for any offence caused by them. Any complaints should be directed to the Editor.
Jan 19 2009 13:57

Oh and I wonder which side of this argument are wanting to keep anti Israel hate material on the laughably named "peace wall" in the name of free.

It is fine to criticsise Israel (or any other country) but Live and Felix need to question the motives of those doing so. Israeli actions should be placed in context and comparisons drawn with other countries. Unless I am mistaken and IC's Israel bashers are also simultaneously expressing their outrage at the long list of undemocratic countries conducting themselves in a far worse manner then the only conclusion that can be drawn from their continued obsession with criticising Israel is that it is only a proxy for Hamas style anti-semitism.

I hope that the Union takes swift action to ensure that any public display contains disproportionate criticism of a state trying to defend it's people from genocidal maniacs. It is the only way to give dignity to those who have places messages that do encourage a sustainable peace for Palestinians and Israelis.

Jan 19 2009 14:19

I can see both the need for consoring the messages that are put on the wall and the disinclination to do it. As the person I spoke to pointed out - although she personally disagreed with the sentiment, where is one to draw the line with censorship based on your personal opinion? The wall is supposed to provide freedom of expression and you should pick fault with those ignorant and malicious enough to post hateful messages (on both sides of the argument) not those who are trying to bring around a positive discussion and a united call for peace.

Jan 19 2009 14:42

Well surely those on both sides have an interest in seeing that any extremist views (either anti Israeli or anti Palestinian) are swiftly removed so that it is clear that the motivation of the peace wall is 100% peaceful?

Again, why do so many pro-palestine activists get themselves worked up over Israel but are ambivalent to the far more numerous victims in Darfur, Sri lanka and a host of African countries? What is it about the Jewish state which causes them to hold it to higher standards than other nations?

Jan 19 2009 19:35

I walked past the "peace wall" at about 6pm tonight and it is almost bare. Most of the messages have been removed and all that remain talk of freeing the people of Gaza. Not sure whether that's freedom from Israeli "occupation" or freedom from Hamas terror.

On a related note, I wonder if Live will rinse Felix for their articles on the subject. The woeful pig-ignorance of some of the contributors was astounding and the Felix staff even managed to include a photo of what they claimed was an Israeli tank on its way to Gaza when a cursory glance reveals that the tank is about as Israeli as a Bacon sarnie and judging by the conveniently laid out path the tank is driving over, it is in some sort of training facility.

I think it's fair to say that so long as the people commenting on the situation have such a pathetic level of knowledge, we ain't gonna get very far.

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