By James Poole
Professor Manuel Hassassian, the Palestinian Diplomatic Representative to the UK, addressed Durham Union Society (DUS) yesterday evening in the Union’s debating chamber.
The professor’s hour-long speech followed the Israeli Ambassador’s address last month which took place amid tight security and attracted around twenty protestors.
Around six members of security staff were present at Hassassian’s speech, which began at around 8:45pm, despite a low turnout from DUS members and the absence of protestors.
Hassassian spoke in general about the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine and outlined Palestine’s next steps, saying:
“This conflict is incredibly complex. Nothing has really changed in 100 years of fighting except things are getting worse. It is becoming a more and more religious conflict.
“Israel is only interested in achieving peace without giving territory to Palestine. We are living in cages with no freedom. There is no life – people are dying every day. If it’s not from bullets from the Israelis it’s from the abject poverty.
“Israel is not allowing us to build schools because we need a permit to build so people are turning to violence and terrorism because there are no opportunities, there is no progress. Israel wants to conduct negotiations and dominate them. Israel won’t budge one inch to alleviate the situation.
He added: “We [Palestinians] have things to do. We have to put our house in order. We need elections to democratically elect representatives for Palestine. We also need to avoid violence and terrorism.”
Hassassian made further pleas for a solution to the conflict, saying:
“This conflict should not be dragged on any more than it already has been. The consequences will be detrimental.
“As a Palestinian I have a basic human right to self-determination. We are seeking justice and we are seeking peace. We are ready to have open borders and trade relations with Israel once we have our independence.”
The professor ended his speech by saying:
“I believe there is a solution for everything. If you have good intentions there is always a solution.”
One member of the audience, Flavia Cahn, a second year at Collingwood, told Palatinate: “I found the speech very interesting; a lot of things were brought to light. The professor talked about the role of the international community, which I think is important to consider in this conflict.”
Another audience member, George Hammerton, a third year at Collingwood, said: “He was a very good speaker and gave an informative speech but it was quite different to Daniel Taub’s. Professor Hassassian was much more open, insightful and far more detailed.”
The Union Society’s final debate of term will take place tomorrow in the debating chamber where members will debate the motion “This House would rather be on the naughty list than the nice list”.
Photograph: James Poole