I shall be speaking in Leeds today either in the conference hall or on a nearby pavement. The meeting entitled “Palestine/Israel: A Unitary Secular State or a Bantustan Solution” is due to take place at 6pm in the Conference Auditorium GM 01, which I am told is the big building behind The Edge sports centre. Do come if you are within reach. I shall be leaving for Leeds shortly.
Apparently the trustees of Leeds University Union will decide during the day whether I should be permitted to speak in a university building this evening. Being a polite sort of chap, I spoke with a very friendly lady for a considerable while this morning clarifying my views on Israel. I remain appalled by the process, but believe the outcome is likely to be positive. I expect the meeting will go ahead. This is the email I sent yesterday evening in response to the demand to pre-vet my speech:
This is very difficult as I do not write speeches in advance. I always speak off the cuff. I object to this procedure on principle, and have just posted this on my blog:
I am giving a talk entitled “Palestine/Israel: A Unitary Secular State or a Bantustan Solution” in Leeds University tomorrow. I have just been told by Leeds University Union I will not be allowed to speak unless I submit what I am going to say for pre-vetting.
I am truly appalled that such a gross restriction on freedom of speech should be imposed anywhere, let alone in a university where intellectual debate is meant to be an essential part of the learning experience. I really do not recognise today’s United Kingdom as the same society I grew up in. The common understanding that the values of a liberal democracy are the foundation of society appears to have evaporated.
As regular readers know well, I do not write speeches in advance but always speak extempore. My opinions on Israel and Palestine are very well documented on this blog and elsewhere. I want to see a single, unitary state in Israel/Palestine, encompassing everyone who currently lives in those territories, as a secular democracy blind to ethnicity and religion. This includes an acceptance that further forced large population movements by anybody are not desirable and the Palestinians should receive more compensation than restitution. If I am not permitted to express this view within a University, I find that truly shocking.
I should be equally shocked if anybody who held views very different to my own were not permitted to express them.
I think that if people like me are now being prevented from speaking, society has crossed a very dangerous line indeed.
I attempted to contact Leeds University Union before posting this, but was told by your after hours help desk that they have no means of contacting any person in a responsible position out of hours, not even to pass on my phone number. I find that extraordinary.
Let me state at the start that I have spoken in many scores of Universities, all around the world, including Berkeley, Stanford, Harvard etc and several times each at the Oxford and Cambridge Unions. I have never at any time encountered any violence, disruption or even heated dispute at any of my hundreds of talks, anywhere. There has never been any risk to anybody present. I always encourage discussion and positively welcome the polite expression of contrary views.
As I said, I do not write speeches in advance. But this is the outline of what I intend to say.
While I dislike agreeing with Donald Trump, he was quite right in dismissing the idea that there is an unquestionable two state solution to the conflict in Israel/Palestine. For many years now a two state solution has been impractical. The Palestinian territories are separated, overcrowded and devoid of natural resources, most tellingly water.
As a younger man I was in charge of the South Africa (Political) Desk of the FCO. The grand plan of apartheid was that the white population would have unique right of residence in most of South Africa, with the black population corralled into crowded and resourceless Bantustans, many commuting into the white areas as a cheap labour force. These Bantustans were, according to the masterplan of apartheid, to be recognised as Independent states. The FCO had a current struggle to head off Mrs Thatcher’s desire to indeed recognise the first of them, Bophutatswana, as independent after apartheid South Africa recognised it.
The parallels between the Bantustan plan and the “two state solution” are obvious and the high profile supporters of the “two state solution” are insincere. In 2002 Blair and Bush announced in the Rosa Garden they were jointly proposing the “two state solution”. Their motivation was precisely the same as Thatcher’s in pushing for support of the proposed state of Bophutatswana – to allow the formal marginalisation of the indigenous population from their land. The “two state” Palestine was never intended to be viable.
If the neo-con supporters of two states really believed what they pretended, why did they never recognise a Palestinian state? The timing and motivation of the Bush/Blair announcement was a figleaf for Saudi support of the invasion of Iraq a few months later.
The truth is that the massive injustice done in the removal of the Palestinian peoples from their lands must be addressed. Peace in the Middle East will not be possible otherwise. The Israeli people will never achieve security through intransigence.
I was also once Head of Cyprus Section of the FCO and heavily involved in UN negotiations for the reunification of Cyprus. I see many parallels between the situations in Palestine and Cyprus and believe elements of the proposed UN Cyprus peace talks might provide a blueprint for Israel/Palestine, particularly in its federal and security aspects.
I shall then move on to wider questions of Middle Eastern policy, along the lines of this talk I gave to the Edinburgh SNP Club a couple of weeks ago. You can see that here
I shall then address troubling aspects of the British/Israeli governmental relationship, including over drone killing policy, drawing on the talk I gave to the Noam Chomsky symposium at University College London last week. I attach a brief abstract of that talk. I shall also refer to the recent Al Jazeera documentary “The Lobby” and the Shai Masot case.
I do hope that is all helpful to you. I appreciate it is probably not your fault you occupy for this moment the role of thought police, but hope you realise how very wrong and undemocratic this all is. I have complied with the request to outline as best I can what I am going to say purely out of courtesy to you and Leeds University Union. It is not open to debate or negotiation.