'My Culture, Your Politics' Panel Discussion

After months of preparation, especially by Aberdeen University’s Politics & International relations Society’s Vice-President, Satu Kuitunen, the long-awaited panel discussion finally took place on the 6th of October. The topic was “Your Culture, My Politics” and was in collaboration with A Soul for Europe. A Soul for Europe’s aim is to ” implement concrete steps and conduct projects to ensure that Europe makes greater and better use of its cultural assets”. The panel included Ana Gomes MEP, Nikolai Petersen, Rarita Zbranca, Sir Graham Watson, Ferdinand Richard, Kirsty Blackman MP, Stephanie Bonnici, Malcolm Harvey and Satu Kuitunen. The event was moderated by Simon Mundy, a member of the Strategy Group for A Soul for Europe. Nele Hertling, former director of the Berlin City of Culture and Berlin Festival, attended the event and gave a thought-provoking introductory speech as well as a wonderful closing speech to wrap up the event.

Though this forum gave light to many valuable points, one of the most memorable discussions was on the peaceful fluidity of the European Union. There was a visible generational gap between a majority of the panelists and those who attended. Most of the panelists had seen a Europe before the European Union while likely none of the students ever witnessed, or can recall, a Europe without the EU. Panelist Nikolai Peterson recalled his journey to Portugal in 1989, before the creation of the European Union. Throughout his trip he was stopped twice at the border of each European country he passed through. Peterson recalled being in Portugal on November 9th, 1989, the day the Berlin Wall fell. He expressed that “The fall of the Berlin Wall galvanized European integration!”. Today, due the creation of the European Union and the Schengen Convention, citizens are able to pass from one EU Member State to another with ease. It was good and interesting to see that many of the people attending the event were actually from mainland Europe and are in Aberdeen, making use of the privileges they are able to enjoy as citizens of European Union member states. One of these people is Satu Kuitunen, Vice-President of the PIR Society, panelist, and an organizer of the event, is in her fourth and final year at the University of Aberdeen. In response to the conversation on the creation of the EU, Kuitunen stated how she has “enjoyed the privileges of the EU [her] whole life”. This conversation provoked the young audience, who likely take the privileges of the EU for granted, to think about a Europe, and even a world, without the European Union and how different it would be. Rasmus Udde, who wrote an opinion peace in the follow-up to the panel discussion in Aberdeen, talks about this too. In this piece, he asks himself what Europe means to Estonian Rasmus and European Rasmus. This concept is quite thought-provoking. Rasmus argues that Europe to Estonian Rasmus (one that did not move to Brussels at age 12) is nothing. It’s like the US or Russia, “something to read or watch news about or visit as a tourist.” European Rasmus on the other hand has the “ability to relocate, explore, experience, and cherish different people, culture, locations, and opportunities”. Ana Gomes responded to the conversation by reminding the room that the privileges of the EU were not gifted to EU Member States; these privileges were fought for. Gomes stated, “I never took the EU for granted. It is the most important pace project for humanity”. The younger generation in the room will have a large role in guiding the future of Europe, and therefore, it was enlightening for this younger generation to be reminded that peace is not given, but fought for.

Overall, the feedback we received was very positive. The panelists seemed to have enjoyed themselves and the students learned a lot and (hopefully) got some refreshing thoughts in their mind. An event like this is not held very often, so most of the students really enjoyed this type of debate. The committee is very happy that the event was successful, but sad that the event is over. We had a great time too and it was great to see so many students attending. It was great to have the panelists join us at the pub after for an informal chat. We had much more personal discussions and the atmosphere removed the barrier that could have easily been put up by the panelists and attendees during the event.

 

On behalf of the entire Politics and International Relations committee, we would like to thank all the panelists for attending and for their thought provoking speeches. We would also like to thank everyone in the audience that attended the event. We hope you learned as much as we did and had fun in the process as well!

  

Rasmus Udde’s opinion piece: https://medium.com/asoulforeurope/europe-a-concept-filled-with-opportunities-4c729de5c1c
Aberdeen University’s PIR Society’s twitter (where one can find the tweets above and many more!): https://twitter.com/ABDNPIRSoc
A Soul For Europe: http://www.asoulforeurope.eu/
Aberdeen University’s PIR Society: http://abdnpir.co.uk

Welcome Back

Hello everyone,

On behalf of the Politics and international relations society, we would like to welcome you to the 2017/2018 academic year.

Committee

This year, the committee will consist of 10 people, 9 have already been chosen. The tenth one is our academic representative. If you are in first year and would like to be part of our committee, please send your 200-word manifesto and a picture of yourself to our email (pirabdn@gmail.com) before 23:59 on September 24th. Interviews commence on September 27th. If you want to read more about the current 9 members, please go to our website (http://abdnpir.co.uk/) and under committee, click on standing.

Trips

Just like before, we will organise 2 trips this year. One trip, in January, will go to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, and Kosovo. The April trip will go to Canada. For more information, please come to the info session on October 16th.

Wine and Cheese Night

On Thursday 7 September, we hosted our annual Wine and Cheese night after our introductory lecture. We had a good turnout with about 50 people attending the lecture and the wine and cheese night. The committee was very happy to see so many new faces. We certainly had a lot of fun meeting everyone. We hope that you enjoyed your night as much as we did!

Freshers Pub Crawl

Our next event is our Freshers pub crawl. This will take place on September 14th. We start at 7:30pm at Vodka Revolution (25 Belmont Street, AB10 1JS). It only costs £15 and members get free entry to Underground after! We hope to see many of you there for a, what is going to be, great night!

Journal

There are open positions for our academic journal, the International Academic. Positions open are those of editor and sub-editor. More information about this will be released on Wednesday, so please tune into our Facebook page.

A Soul for Europe

We are hosting the first ever UK “A Soul for Europe” conference. The overarching theme for this is “Who is assuming responsibility for Europe?”. A full blog post about this event will be posted later.

 

We hope to see you on Thursday!

Politics and international relations committee.

The Israel - Palestine Conflict

First things first, just to get the formalities out of the way, I apologise (to all of those who care enough) for the long break in between posting blogs, I’m sure you all know how it is having the work ethic of a student: procrastination and last minute ‘oh s***, I have work to do?’. Also a bit (very) late, but I hope all of you had a good Christmas and New Year and that your return to uni has not been too depressing!

Anyway, I’ll just drop the bombshell: Israel-Palestine. An ever-relevant, undying part of international relations is under a new period of change given the inauguration of President Trump and the recent visit of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the White House on the 15th of February. This is particularly pertinent since the US is the world’s largest donor to Israel, providing $121 billion (not adjusted for inflation) of foreign aid to them since the end of WWII up until mid-2014 – as calculated by Jeremy Sharp at The Congressional Research Centre (CRC). In addition to the fact that it is one of the most central actors in influencing and shaping the outcome of the Israel-Palestine conflict.

As if the US foreign aid (bilateral military aid, Foreign Military Assistance, whatever you want to call it) budget was not enough already, in September 2016 the Obama administration agreed a deal with Netanyahu to increase the pay packet to from $3.1 billion a year to $3.8 billion a year from 2019 to 2028, a move which will only deepen the ties between the two states. This is “the single largest pledge of bilateral military assistance in US history” (US State’s department), which really does profoundly demonstrates how comfortably in bed the two states are. However, this set off, as seemingly with every move made with regards to this conflict, outrage from pro-Palestinian groups who claimed this deal was nothing short of rewarding the Israeli government for their illegal settlements and occupation of supposed Palestinian territory.

This mammoth deal brings with it considerable confusion. A month before the deal was brokered the White House stated that the continued construction of settlements are a “serious and growing threat to the viability of a two-state solution”, a statement which is not reflected in the magnitude of the deal whatsoever. Better yet, the US abstained on UNSC resolution 2334, a momentous resolution demanding the cessation of illegal Israeli settlements. The resolution affirmed that Israeli settlements on Palestinian territory since 1967 (that encompasses East Jerusalem) has “no legal validity” and it insisted that “all Israeli settlement activities” were stopped since it is “essential to salving the two state solution”.

This goes against the general course of history as the US has time and again vetoed UN resolutions critical of Israel, yet with the Obama administration only one veto has been used in 2011. Nevertheless, with regards to historical discourse and the shaping of the Israel-Palestine conflict this move did provide some much needed morality, even if it only appears as a token move. In this sense, the US desire for the improvement of Israeli security actually aligns with Palestinian safety interest. In other words, the desire of the US, expressed “privately and publically” (Samatha Power, US Ambassador) for some fifty years, for Israel to stop with illegal settlements may be self-interested in terms of US’ security concerns, but it could aid Palestine as they would be able to regain some of their stolen land.

No surprise Netanyahu completely disagreed with the US’ abstention. He said that “Israel rejects this shameful anti-Israel resolution” and that they would not abide by the term, yet again, no surprise there. And carrying on this trend, Netanyahu accused the Obama administration of colluding with other states to pass this resolution, an upbraiding bred out of petulance, but that’s what militarism is about. There is no wonder why Netanyahu was expressing his eagerness to work with the Trump administration.

Trump, following his meeting with Netanyahu, expressed his indifference to what number of state solution was chosen as the preferred route, claiming he likes “the one that both parties like”. This plays exceedingly favourably into Netanyahu’s hands, after the largest Foreign Military Assistance deal wast struck up, he express his desire to try and increase the pay packet from $3.8 billion a year to $4.5 billion under the next administration. This attitude of powerful untouchability is further expressed in Netanyahu’s dismissal of Trump’s request to hold back on the illegal settles as it is not the “core of the conflict” (said at the press conference following their meeting). Instead of hold back, the Israeli government plans to build 6,000 more Jewish homes on the West Bank, a greater number than what was planned prior to Trump’s presidency and an action in line with that of the belief of being able to get more money from the administration succeeding Obama.

Netanyahu is a dangerous character, his highhanded dismissiveness is problematic. I am sure many of you have seen the video from Channel 4 news, which was posted on Facebook on the 11th of August 2016, of Netanyahu expressing his belief that “Israel cares more about Palestinians than their own leaders”. If you couple Netanyahu’s and Trump’s attitudes then this surely spells an era of even greater perilous uncertainty for the potential of any form of reasonable resolution to the conflict.

To exacerbate the matter further, and once more create contradictory confusion from an international perspective separate from the influence of the US-Israel relationship, the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres to attributed the temple atop of Temple Mount to be Jewish (as said on Israel Radio). This came even after UNESCO declared the Al-Aksa Mosque to be of complete Islamic heritage. Guterres statement will only provoke more indignation from the Palestinian and embitter the hostility more.

These are but a few factors affecting this torrid mess, and as Rashid Khalidi wrote in the Guardian: “this problem did not start in 1967, and it will not disappear simply by resolving the settlement issue”, as demonstrated by the Temple mount contention, one example out of a myriad of issues. As the matter goes, with Netanyahu’s stubborn ruthlessness, Trump’s inadequacy and the UN’s incompetency, people are going to be chanting “Free, Free Palestine” for a long time to come.

Enjoy the Break

Finally the semester is over… No more exam stress, just simply time to enjoy the Christmas break! The PIR society just wanted to say we hope you’re exams went as smoothly as possible, probably more smoothly for some than others, but we are all together in trying to just barely scrape through uni.

We have had such a successful semester here at the PIR Society and we are so proud, especially with the jam-packed schedule of November. But it would have been nothing without all you lovely people who equally make the society what it is. A very big thank you from the committee for everyone that turned up to all the events and made this success possible.

Be ready for more of the same next semester, but for now go and enjoy your new year and break off from uni!

Statement

“The Politics & International Relations Society at Aberdeen University has always upheld the values and principles of free speech and actively encourages the student body to question and challenge different political views. We fully support student’s rights to conduct peaceful protests but we also respect the right of our guest speakers to have a fair and equal platform for discussion and the ability to engage in constructive debates”.

The Politics & International Relations Society Committee