Queen’s University’s student newspaper, The Queen’s Journal, has issued a statement condemning the ongoing violence against Palestinians in East Jerusalem by the Israel Defence Forces. The stance comes as tensions increase to new heights in the Middle East.
The statement has drawn both applause and condemnation from readers, including Queen’s students, former faculty and alumni.
“The Journal stands in solidarity with those students and faculty affected by the ongoing occupation of Palestine. Palestinian peoples deserve, and have always deserved, the rights to freedom and equality,” said The Queen’s Journal’s editors-in-chief, Shelby Talbot & Aysha Tabassum.
At the same time, the Journal announced that they would be donating to the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement., an organization who says they are working to end international support for Israel’s oppression of Palestinians.
“We condemn the ongoing violence against Palestinians in East Jerusalem by the IDF and, while Palestine is home to folks of all religions, we would like to extend our sympathy to our Muslim brothers and sisters in Sheikh Jarrah who have had to pass another Ramadan in violence and unrest,” added Talbot & Aysha Tabassum.
The position taken by the Journal was met with some applause. “I am a Queen’s alumni and am happy to see the Queen’s Journal supporting BDS. In 1987, it was controversial to divest $23.3 million Queen’s investment from Apartheid South Africa but it was the morally correct thing to do,” said one Alumni.
Others condemned the statement by the campus newspaper and found the statement to be biased and ‘disappointing.’ “As a Queen’s ‘91 graduate, former President of Queen’s Hillel, and a former staff member of the Queen’s Journal. The statement from the Queen’s Journal is disgusting and reprehensible,” one user said. “The Journal should be reporting on issues relating to Queen’s and daily life on campus, not on very complicated political issues halfway across the world.”
The controversial statement prompted the Queen’s Hillel, a campus club representing Jewish students at Queen’s University, to write a letter to the editors seeking a retraction and apology from the Queen’s Journal.
The club asserts that the campus newspaper made a political donation without approval of its advisory board. “As students and as AMS members, we especially object to your donation to the BDS movement. We believe that political donations fall outside of any reasonable definition of the mandate of the Journal,” said the executive team of Queen’s Hillel.
The BDS movement has historically caused deep tensions at Queen’s University. In 2011, Queen’s University’s rector, Nick Day, voiced his support for Isreali Apartheid Week and in a letter to then Liberal Party leader Michael Ignatieff, described the situation in Palestine as “biggest human rights tragedy of [Day’s] generation.’’
The comments were so controversial that former Principal Daniel Woolf distanced the university from the letter to ignatieff, stating they do not represent the views of the university. When the Alma Mater Society tabled a motion for Day’s impeachment, he opted to resign instead.
In 2014, the Society of Graduate and Professional Students refused to take a stance on the issue, after stating that they don’t have the mandate to speak for all of its members.
In 2016, the Alma Mater Society of Queen’s University also declined to take a stance on the BDS movement, instead supporting the freedom of expression.
As of May 17th 2021, the United Nations is urging the United States to support a declaration supporting an immediate ceasefire. However, the motion was voted down today for the third time in a week. Israel believes its bombing campaign is justified as a retaliation to an attack by Hamas fighters.
However, the Hamas movement says that its military actions are a response to forced displacements in an occupied East Jerusalem region as well as the storming of a mosque by Isreali forces last week. To date, approximately 200 people, including 58 children, have been killed by the on going military strikes. At least 10 people in Isreal were also victims of the intense bombing.