Dr Salman Abu Sitta is a Palestinian researcher based in London. The invitation to him to deliver a seminar at the University of Edinburgh in November 2022 to mark the centenary of the start of the British Mandate in Palestine provoked the usual attempts to get the seminar cancelled – from the usual sources deploying the usual claims of previous antisemitic comments. All too often these tactics work, and the Palestinian voice is closed down. But this time the University stood firm and Dr Abu Sitta delivered his seminar. The venue was highly appropriate – Lord Balfour whose Declaration was the starting gun for the mandate was for more than 30 years the Chancellor of the University of Edinburgh.

You can view Dr Abu Sitta’s seminar here: A Palestinian Address to Balfour: In honor of truth, memory, and justice – Mondoweiss

Professor Jonathan Rosenhead wrote to the University of Edinburgh’s Vice Chancellor expressing BRICUP’s appreciation that pressure to cancel Dr Abu Sitta’s seminar was resisted and it was permitted to take place:

11 January 2023

Professor Peter Mathieson
Vice Chancellor, University of Edinburgh

Dear Professor Mathieson

Dr Salman Abu Sitta

I am writing on behalf of the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine to express our appreciation of your and your colleagues’ stance in maintaining the invitation to Dr Salman Abu Sitta to give his seminar “On the Centenary of the British Mandate Era in Palestine (1922-1948)” at your university on November 8th last year.
It is a disturbing feature of our current public intellectual climate that organisations and individuals external to academia attempt routinely to prevent particular speakers from being heard and certain topics from being addressed. Nowhere is this more intense than in relation to any critical discussion of Israel in its relationship to Palestine and the Palestinians.

At BRICUP we are aware of the public pressures to cancel the invitation, and doubtless there were many more directed privately to the university. Those we know about, because they were given publicity, come from sources that routinely attempt to suppress voices critical of Israel. That these critics include people themselves holding academic posts is particularly concerning.

Dr. Abu Sitta is an independent researcher who has made outstanding contributions to our understanding of the Nakba which forced so many Palestinians from their homes. The events of 1947-8, and their consequences down to the present day, can be traced back to the critical event that was the Balfour Declaration. That its author Arthur Balfour had so long an association with your university made it an entirely appropriate place for this record to be assessed.

Sadly by no means all attempts elsewhere to prevent critical voices like those of Dr Abu Sitta being heard have been resisted by academic authorities. We very much hope that other institutions will now be encouraged by your example to emulate Edinburgh’s staunch defence of right of free speech.

Yours sincerely

Jonathan Rosenhead