Two weeks ago the Israeli ambassador to the UK, Mark Regev, visited Imperial to give a talk to students in an event that was shrouded in secrecy. An article detailing what went on at the event and the build-up to the day itself was published in felix last week but since then the chair of the talk, Dr. Matthew Wraith, and his students have contested points in the article (namely Palestinian Society’s statement). A piece on the subject can be found in Comment. Most of the criticism stems from the statement issued by Palestinian Society that “it is quite worrying that the College did not think to invite an opposing view to help balance the conversation themselves. This would’ve lead to a much more open-minded and fruitful discussion with different perspective being expressed”. Dr. Wraith, who had a large part in the initial organisation of the event, has in response told felix that he had in fact emailed Mohammed Snober, the Palestinian Society President, with an offer to help in the organisation of the ambassador’s visit at the start of the process in October.
Wraith was advised by the Events team to approach the relevant societies but as he didn’t want it to be a one-sided event he approached Palestinian Society as well as Israeli Society. He contacted PalSoc asking if they “would be interested in taking an active role in the organisation of this event, helping to establish its central focus, to organise and publicise it beforehand and on the day.”
However Wraith told felix he received no reply. felix reached out to Palestinian Society for comment and they felt that they weren’t explicitly asked to provide another speaker. “The initial email proposed helping out with organising and publicising the event and deciding the focus of the questions, rather than expressing that the event was open for an opposing speaker to be present to challenge the rhetoric presented by the Israeli ambassador (if this was the purpose of the invitation we feel it could’ve been made clear)”, said Mohammed Snober, Palestinian Society President.
The society’s silence was due to commitments by their members around that time, both personal and educational with Snober adding “We didn’t want to commit to an event and attach the Palestinian society’s name without our full focus and dedication.” Palestinian Society also felt that it wasn’t wholly on them to provide the opposing view: “While it was much appreciated that the society was approached we do not feel that our lack of involvement gives the College a reason to not invite another speaker. While opening the floor to questions allows for a healthy Q&A to take place, it certainly doesn’t turn this event into a balanced one, as the audience and speaker don’t share the same platform.”
Snober concluded that they could’ve handled the situation better though: “We should have made it clear what was going on at the time and what we’d want from such an event if it were to go through. Hopefully in the future we will be able to get involved in the organisation of such events and ensure they are as balanced as we can make them.”