Thursday, 17 February 2011

Student Union Disciplinary Hearing

THE UNIVERSITY OF BIRMINGHAM STUDENTS' UNION (Guild) today decided not to undertake any disciplinary action against the Friends of Palestine Society with regard to its invitation of US Army veteran Mike Prysner. The society was found to have followed the correct procedures in inviting Mr. Prysner.

However, a sanction was still decided upon by the student groups committee:
The society has been sanctioned to issue the following statement, and reiterate the clarification made in its previous blog post:

"The University of Birmingham Friends Of Palestine Society would like to apologise to anyone that was offended by guest speaker Mike Prysner’s comments comparing Israel’s actions to that of Nazi Germany.

The views and opinions expressed at all Friends of Palestine events are those of the speaker(s) in question and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the society."

The Guild's Student Groups Committee is comprised of:

Daniella Kotzmann (Guild Councilor)
Mark Harrop (Guild Councilor)
Sam Noakes (Guild Councilor)
Matt Lamb (Guild Vice President: Student Activities and Development)
Ashley Chambers (Guild Vice President: Democracy and Resources)
Julian Adeniran (Guild Vice President: Sport)

We would like to say a big thank you to the hundreds of people who signed the petition in support of Friends of Palestine in light of the disciplinary procedures and threats made against us.


Your support has strengthened our determination to continue fighting for justice in Palestine, and the right of all oppressed peoples to live in dignity and freedom.

Monday, 7 February 2011

A Hectic Week for Friends of Palestine - WE STILL EXIST!

Hi Everyone,




LAST WEEK, Zionist students seized the opportunity to do something they have been dreaming to do ever since Friends of Palestine was established in 2008.

They picked up on a comparison made by our Guest Speaker, Mike Prsyner, between the actions of Israel in Gaza and that of Nazi Germany in World War II.

I have declared that I strongly disagree with and don't advocate the use of such comparisons because I find them to be insensitive to the memory of the systematic murder of millions of Jews by a regime determined to wipe out an entire people.

Nevertheless, supporters of Israel have labelled Friends of Palestine as anti-Semitic and accused us of cynically trivialising the memory of the Holocaust.

They have dedicated all of their resources and much of their time into exerting pressure on the Guild to ban Friends of Palestine as a society, and prevent us from holding future events. Not only this but they have pressured the University of Birmingham management at the highest levels to scrutinise the actions of the Guild and sanction the society.

The issue has now been taken to a Guild committee , who will ultimately decide the fate of the society. They have the power to ban, sanction, and suspend the society.

If you would like to support us, please sign the petition:

WE HAVE SEVERAL EVENTS PLANNED FOR THE NEAR FUTURE, including our elections which have been postponed until next week.

We promise to give enough notice to people who want to volunteer as to the date of the handover meeting (where me and the rest of the committee will stand down from our positions).

More details to follow,


Thursday, 3 February 2011

Point of Clarification - Mike Prysner Event

We are aware that the Birmingham Guild of Students has received 60 emails of complaint about one of our events: 'US Army Veteran Mike Prysner- Crisis in the Middle East', on the 26th of January.

The complaints related to the timing of the event, coming as it did on the same day that a commemoration was held at the University, to mark Holocaust Memorial Day. Complaints were also made about some of the content of the talk. We also note that upwards of 200 students expressed their support of the event in an online petition (

At the time it was organised we were unaware of the Holocaust commemoration taking place on the same day not least because both events occurred on the day before Holocaust Memorial Day. When we became aware of the clash we brought our event forward by two hours so that people could attend both events if they chose.

We hope that people will understand the constraints of hosting an international speaker on a tight schedule who was only in the area for a short period of time. We would also like to stress that this was part of a regular series of events held by Friends of Palestine and was in no way intended to minimise or draw attention away from commemorating the Holocaust.

The other complaints related to the content of the talk. We do not vet outside speaker talks in advance, and cannot always take responsibility for all of the content within them. Nevertheless we are happy to emphasise that, in common with all events involving outside speakers, the views expressed in this particular talk do not always reflect the views of Friends of Palestine or its member, in particular the brief section of the talk that caused the most distress, in which the Gaza Strip was likened to a “concentration camp.”

We believe that associating the actions of the Israeli state with the history of Nazi Germany, or its iconography, is neither useful nor respectful to the sensitivities of sections of the student body and are happy to dissociate ourselves from any such comparison.

(The audio recording is available from The part on Gaza starts at 29 minutes)

The University’s Code of Practice on Freedom of Speech on Campus states that “the University is an academic community of staff and students. Central to this concept is the ability of all its members freely to challenge prevailing orthodoxies, query the positions and views of others and to put forward ideas that may sometimes be radical in their formulation.”

We believe that this talk made and important and compelling contribution to understanding the Middle East and many attendees found it a challenging and valuable experience. Nonetheless we regret, deeply, that some students have been upset by aspects of the talk and would like to reaffirm our, desire as a Society, to pursue our activities in the spirit of mutual understanding and solidarity with all victims of oppression or injustice, wherever or whenever it has taken place.

written by:
Faris Karouni

Friends of Palestine Society
University of Birmingham