Hezbollah ‘No Platform’ motion defeated by CUSU

1 March 2008

Jennifer Shaw

Deputy News Editor

A controversial motion to put Hezbollah on the ‘No Platform’ list has been rejected by Cambridge University Students Union (CUSU).

The motion was defeated by 15 votes to nine.

CUSU’s ‘No Platform’ Policy campaigns against “attempts by any organization within Cambridge University to provide a platform to any group deemed to pose a very real threat to the welfare or security our members.”

The CU Jewish Society had hoped that by adding Hezbollah – the Lebanese-based party which is regarded by the US and the UK as a terror organization – to the ‘No Platform’ list a spokesman for Hezbollah would be prevented from appearing at a public rally organized by the ‘Stop the War’ Coalition.

The Hezbollah spokesman in question, Ibrahim Mousawi, is the editor of Lebanese newpaper Al-Intiqad and was formerly a journalist and presenter for the Hezbollah television station, Al-Manar, known for broadcasting anti-Semitic material.

Mousawi was due to speak at the rally to be held in Cambridge on 2nd March, but the location of the rally is uncertain after Corpus Christi college – who was due to host the event – pulled out citing logistic reasons.

The ‘No Platform’ motion had been put forward by Mark Wolfson, External Officer of the CU Jewish Society. He told The Cambridge Student: “Hezbollah is an organization which is homophobic; it calls for the death penalty to homosexuals, it’s anti-Semitic, it is sexist, it calls for the repression of women.”

“This is about protecting LGBT students, Jewish students and women at Cambridge from the physical and psychological intimidation that the presence of such an organization contains,” he added.

Wolfson also refuted the suggestion that he was trying to prevent freedom of speech: “This isn’t about the Cambridge student believing or not believing – it’s about the organization’s ability to say “one of our spokesmen has spoken at Cambridge.

“It gives them a massive legitimacy and I hope Cambridge students appreciate that this isn’t specifically about their intelligence and it’s not about insulting their intelligence.” he added.

But those opposing the motion have raised the issue that Mousawi does not affiliate himself with these views.

“I would challenge anyone to provide evidence of any word that I have said that is hateful or anti-Semitic,” Mousawi said in relation to a 2007 campaign to block him entering European countries.

“I’m a human being who believes in dignity, independence and freedom. I’m a bridge-builder and I’ve always been an advocate of dialogue and discussion.”

The ‘Stop the War’ Coalition aims to “stop the war currently declared by the United States and its allies against ‘terrorism’.”

Owen Holland, President of the Cambridge branch of ‘Stop the War’ criticised concerns for student safety at the event as “a tactic for people who want to oppose the meeting to create a security threat.”

Holland also refuted suggestions that Mousawi’s presence at the rally was intended to incite racism:

“I’d ask people who are making the claims of racial hatred to come along and actually see whether they feel that race hatred is being propagated, because I feel they might find they’re mistaken”

Chris Lillycrop, from the University Palestinian Society, stressed that the meeting was intended to stimulate open debate:

“It’s not the case that other people’s views are being repressed, there is opportunity for debate and for questions, and as far as I can see this could well be an excellent venue for debate.”

Lillycrop also warned of the implications of opposing Mousawi’s speech: “It’s an extremely complex political situation and for one side of that debate to be made unwelcome would have extremely dangerous implications for the future of academic debate in Cambridge.

An official statement from Stop the War said Mousawi had been invited to discuss the situation in Lebanon since the 2006 war: “Ibrahim, as a respected political commentator and author, can give an insight into the lives of ordinary Lebanese people after the war.

“Hezbollah is a broad based political party in Lebanon. In the elections of 2005, they took 10.9% of the seats in Parliament.”

The CUSU ‘No Platform’ policy also opposes the BNP, the National Front and Hizb-ut-Tahrir.