The Cambridge Union is facing accusations of undermining free speech after it changed the title of a debate on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, criticizing the decision to remove the word “occupation” from the motion which framed the debate.

The initial motion was advertised as: ‘This House Believes the West should put greater pressure on Israel to end its occupation, but was later changed to ‘This House would pressurize Israel to exchange land for peace.

It’s unclear when the change took place but according to the Cambridge Union’s website and the latest issue of its magazine, the event was being advertised under the most recent name since 24 April, 2023.

The prestigious society held a discussion on the conflict on Thursday, but two of the invited speakers, Avi Shlaim, Emeritus Professor of International Relations at Oxford University; and Wadah Khanfar, president of the non-profit al Sharq Forum were not informed if this.

Had I known that this is the motion I would have spoken against it because I don’t believe in the land for peace narrative, Shlaim told the union during his 14-minute address.

Israel has said for 55 years [that] it’ll trade land for peace and hasn’t done so. I support a democratic solution; one democratic state with equal rights for all its citizens regardless of religion [and] ethnicity between the Jordan River and the sea.

Brazil this week slammed the UN’s inability to create a Palestinian State in the same manner that it established the state of Israel in 1948. The UN was so strong that, in 1948, it managed to create the State of Israel. In 2023, it fails to create a Palestinian state.

The Cambridge Union believes that the West should put greater pressure on Israel to end its occupation. Israel’s presence in the Palestinian territory is the most prolonged and brutal military occupation of modern times.

Khanfar, the former director general of the Al Jazeera Media Network, went on to compare the Palestinian struggle to that of colonially oppressed people throughout history.

No one in the world, no respected body or government or international law in the world, does not recognize that the land of Palestine in 1967 was occupied, but Israel and the lawyers of Israel. It is a fact.

Israeli settlements are illegal according to international law, which prohibits occupying powers from transferring their civilian population into areas under their military control.

In October, the UN General Assembly said that Israel’s occupation was unlawful due to its permanence and Israel’s de-facto annexation policies.

The opposition, made up of two student speakers and Natasha Hausdorff, a director of UK Lawyers for Israel, did not address the name change and focused their speeches on the official motion.

Middle East Eye reached out to the union, which is a private society and completely separate from the Cambridge University Students’ Union, for comment but did not receive a response by time of publication.

Several pro-Palestine activists were furious at the union, with one member slamming the event as shambolic. People just debated different motions, the member told MEE.

Bassil Alaaeddin, a student of Palestinian heritage who attended the debate, said that he was ashamed and disappointed to have the oldest free speech society in the world no longer able to defend free speech.

Can we no longer call an illegal occupation out for what it is? This is what it’s like to be a Palestinian student at Cambridge.

Meanwhile, the president of the Cambridge University Palestine Society told MEE that it was deeply disappointing that the term occupation, which describes a factual state of affairs in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, was excluded from the motion.

The framing of land exchange ignores the Palestinian right of return and turns the narrative into one of territorial dispute.

This excludes the opinion of the vast majority of pro-Palestinian thinkers who insist on freedom and equality from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea.

The Cambridge Union has previously faced criticism for hosting Israeli officials despite criticism from other student groups.

Last year, more than 100 students rallied against a decision to invite Israeli ambassador Tzipi Hotovely, who has publicly described the Nakba as an Arab lie.

The Nakba, which means the catastrophe in Arabic, is the name given to the massacres and forced expulsion Palestinians endured at the hands of Zionist militias in 1948, as the new Zionist state came into existence.

Entire Palestinian villages were destroyed, with Zionist gangs indiscriminately killing unarmed civilians and burying some in mass graves. The Nakba left an estimated 15,000 Palestinians dead and some 750,000 fleeing their homes to live as refugees.

Middle East Monitor / ABC Flash Point Middle East Occupation News 2023.

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07-05-23 13:46

Despite their very foreign and very European appearance, the European Jews arrived in Palestine claiming that they were the original Hebrews coming home but today they face their worst humiliation because DNA confirmed to the world that their actual ancestry connection to the region is 0%. How humiliating is that for a people who have always considered themselves to be the chosen people but DNA confirmed that they are actually no different than the Germans and they are 100% European.

07-05-23 13:53

Israel has already traded land for peace, contrary to what the lying professor stated. There is no consensus in international law that Israeli land is occupied. There is no such thing as a Palestinian right of return. And if Palestinians wish to return they can do so in the newly formed Palestinian state, when they decide to negotiate for one.

07-05-23 13:55

HERZL This is the land of our fathers, a land suitable for colonization and cultivation. Your Majesty has seen the country. Gideon Levy’s reaction when he learned he was 100% European: The first revelation, and the most important of all, struck me like a bolt of lightning. Unequivocally, definitively, no words spared. A huge headline across the full width of the screen: 🔸 Gideon, your DNA suggests that 100% of your origin is Jewish-Ashkenazim. 🔸In other words, a 100% racially pure Ashkenazim Jew. An end to all doubts. But again, astonishingly, there’s not a trace of the Land of Israel… Read more »