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Members of the Students’ Union Palestine Society are currently protesting the School’s use of water from a company which operates sources and plants in the Golan Heights.
Students are lobbying the School not to purchase water coolers and bottled water from Eden Springs UK, which is part of the Israeli company Mey Eden, which appropriates and sells water from sources in Syrian land that has been controversially occupied since 1967.
The extension of Israeli law and administration throughout the territory has been condemned by the United Nations Security Council, and widely denounced.
The Palestine Society ran a stall on Houghton Street last Thursday and Friday, from which they asked students to sign a petition supporting their cause. They also sold cakes and traditional Palestinian foods to fund a new initiative with the Palestinian Women’s Humanitarian Organisation. The LSE has no central contract or purchasing agreement with Eden Springs UK, but the company is on a list of suppliers offered to individual departments by the London Universities Purchasing Consortium (LUPC), with which the School has a framework agreement.
LSE Palestine Society's Stall
A spokesperson for the School said that departments could choose between at least six water suppliers; empty water canisters are regularly seen outside offices in the Department of International History, among others.
The School also clarified that water ordered from Eden Springs UK originates from West Hyde, Hertfordshire, and not from the Golan Heights.
Similar campaigns have been organised by Palestinian rights activists at other British universities. In February 2009, a sit-in protest by forty students convinced the University of Strathclyde to cancel its contract with Eden Springs UK. The protest, which was led by members of the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign, presented a list of demands, including the severing of investments with BAE Systems, an arms manufacturer, and the creation of a scholarship scheme for Palestinian students wishing to study at the university.
Signing the petition to get Eden Springs off campus
Eleven students at UCL submitted a motion in February 2010 petitioning their students’ union to “put pressure on UCL to cancel its contract with Eden Springs UK Ltd as soon as is legally possible”.
The UCL motion, which passed at the union’s Annual General Meeting in the same month, also mandated the education and ethics and environment Officers to write to the university’s Provost on the issue. UCL’s Procurement Services website, which was last updated in October 2010, still lists Eden Springs as a contracted supplier of water coolers, though two other suppliers are also specified.
A statement from the LSE confirmed that the framework agreement with LUPC expires on 30th June, and that it would be a matter for LUPC as to whether Eden Springs retains its place on a new agreed list of suppliers.
Among the sources operated by Mey Eden is the Salukia spring in the Golan Heights. The company also owns a bottling plant in Katzrin, an Israeli settlement in the region.
20,000 Israeli settlers inhabit the Golan Heights alongside an equal number of Syrians; the unilateral annexation of the region in 1981 is not internationally recognised.
Palestine Society President Zachariah Sammour told the Beaver: “The natural resources of a State should be of benefit to the people of that State alone; either through national ownership or through State taxation of profits accrued through its economic use”.
Sammour added, “Israel is therefore denying the people of that region the benefits of their own land and resources and illegally subverting it for themselves.
“We believe that a progressive institution like the LSE should not be conducting business with a company facilitating a state of affairs that is both illegal and which poses a massive threat to world peace, namely the continued, illegal Israeli Occupation”, he said.
The School also said it was their intention in the longer term to “eradicate all bottled water supplies on campus in favour of water fountains using filtered tap water, as this is a more sustainable option."