Dozens of student groups sign letter opposing Israeli speaker at Cambridge Union

File - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu listens to Intelligence Agencies Minister Dan Meridor (AFP)

MEE Staff

Middle East Eye  /  November 18, 2022

Students ask why Israeli officials with a history of human rights abuses are being invited one after another to the historic Cambridge Union.

An array of student organizations at Cambridge University have signed a letter condemning the decision by the Cambridge Union to host senior Likud politician Dan Meridor, alleging he has committed human rights violations in Israel and the occupied West Bank

Meridor held multiple positions within governments headed by Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party. Most recently he served as Israel’s Minister of Intelligence, a post that gave him power over intelligence services active in the occupied West Bank.

“Meridor, a long-time member of the right-wing populist Likud party, has a long history of breaching international law and committing human rights abuses,” the letter said.

From 2009 to 2013 he was Deputy Prime Minister. His time in office coincided with an Israeli assault on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla in 2010. Ten Turkish citizens were killed when Israeli forces boarded the Mavi Marmara vessel as it attempted to break the ongoing siege of the Gaza Strip.

Meridor’s tenure as deputy prime minister also came as Israel conducted an eight-day bombardment of the Gaza Strip in 2012 which killed more than 100 Palestinian civilians.

“It is doubtful the Union would invite Meridor if the organizers of this event or their families suffered under IDF bombing campaigns or torture in detention. Arab life, for most Western states, has no value,” the authors stated.

As of Friday, the letter had received the endorsement of 32 student groups, including the Cambridge University Palestine Solidarity Society, the Cambridge Middle East North Africa Society and Cambridge University Islamic Society.

“We have no fear of listening to our political opponents. What we will not tolerate are invitations to a succession of war criminals and torturers,” the letter added.

At the beginning of November, the president of the National Union of Students was removed from office following an investigation into allegations of antisemitism brought by the Union of Jewish Students.

Shaima Dallali said she had received Islamophobic and racist abuse, including death threats, since the allegations came to light.

Meridor’s visit is not the first time the Cambridge Union, a private members’ club to which attendees pay for attendance, has hosted Israeli officials – despite criticism from other student groups. 

In February, more than 100 students at Cambridge University rallied against Israel’s ambassador to the United Kingdom, Tzipi Hotovely, speaking at the club. Protesters brought drums and placards as they shouted slogans including “free Palestine” and “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free”. 

“Given the thousands of speakers who the Union could invite, we question why Israeli officials with a history of human rights abuses are being invited one after the other,” the letter states.

“Events like these at best overlook, and at worst legitimize, the Israeli state’s institutionally racist practices,” the letter added.