Students occupying a lecture theatre at Nottingham University were told to leave within two minutes or face forcible removal by Steven Dudderidge, director of student operations and support, and Professor David Riley, pro-Vice Chancellor in charge of student experience. They decided to non-violently resist and were “thrown out in the cold” by 9 uniformed security guards.
I am very pleased to learn about your courageous and honorable actions, particularly significant because of the crucial British contribution to the savage onslaught on Gaza, second only to the decisive role of the United States — a disgrace for all of us. I hope you have the greatest success in arousing public opinion and bringing these monstrous crimes to an end.
Professor Avi Shlaim
I am aware of the wave of student occupations, especially the one in Oxford which I have actively supported and which has now ended with a large measure of success. I have also sent messages of solidarity to the students of Sussex, Warwick, KCL and others. You might like to know that I was myself a graduate student at the LSE in 1969-1970; I did the M.Sc. In International Relations. Below is my message to the students of the LSE.
To the Students of the LSE
These are very dark days for the long-suffering Palestinians. Israel’s savage assault on the defenceless people of Gaza pushed them to the verge of a humanitarian catastrophe. The one-sided carnage has temporarily stopped but the economic blockade, the oppression, and the occupation continue. Only sustained international pressure, including trade sanctions and an arms embargo, can put an end to Israel’s criminal conduct.
But there is no leadership worthy of the name. Our government is morally bankrupt. It is pusillanimous and feeble and completely out of touch with public opinion. If there was ever a time for direct action, this is the time. And if there was ever an issue that called for a firm moral stand, Gaza is that issue.
I salute you on the brave and altruistic stand that you have taken on behalf of the people of Gaza. I admire your courage and your commitment. You have my unqualified sympathy and support in your struggle for justice for the Palestinian people.
Avi Shlaim, Oxford
Professor Uri Davis
As former political prisoner, an academic and a human rights defender of Jewish origins and of dual citizenship of the apartheid State of Israel and the alleged democratic monarchy of the UK I write to salute the LSE and occupying universities in the UK for their splendid contribution to Palestine solidarity and to the defence of the rights of the Palestinian people.
As the successes of the LSE “Occupation Group” and the School suggest, the Israeli war criminal massacres in Gaza in December 2008/January 2009 may represent a turning point for our anti-apartheid international BDS campaign against apartheid Israel similar to the turning point that materialized world-wide in the wake of the the South African war criminal massacre in Sharpeville in March 1960 with reference to the anti-apartheid international BDS campaign against apartheid South Africa. We shall overcome apartheid!
Uri Davis (PhD)
Institute of Area Studies (IAS)
AL-QUDS University, Abu Dis, Jerusalem
Hon Research Fellow
Institute of Arab & Islamic Studies (IAIS)
University of Exeter
Oxford Students in Solidarity with Gaza Welcome the Official Statement issued by the University’s Senior Proctor
28 January 2009
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Students involved in the occupation of the University of Oxford’s historic Clarendon Building in solidarity with the occupied Palestinian people in Gaza welcome the statement of the Senior Proctor of the University of Oxford issued on January 28, 2009. We moreover recognise and appreciate the Senior Proctor’s effort in initiating a process of fruitful engagement within our academic community.
The Proctor’s statement expressed “concern for the humanitarian crisis in Gaza” and stated that “it is regrettable that many civilian casualties occurred in educational institutions.” In response to our demand that scholarships be created in Oxford for Palestinian students who have suffered from the wide-scale destruction inflicted on Palestinian universities and educational institutions as a result of the Israeli invasion of Gaza, the statement welcomed efforts to create scholarships for Palestinian students at Oxford “to help lessen some of the obstacles to education that now prevail.” In light of our demand that aid to be provided to Palestinian universities, the Senior Proctor also declared that “there is also agreement that help might be offered to restore the damaged educational infrastructure, as it would elsewhere, by making available surplus books, journals and other educational materials and resources.” The Proctor moreover noted that he has “received representations from academic colleagues who have volunteered their time to help teach in Gaza and help during the restoration of university facilities there.”
With regards to our demand that the University divest from BAE and other weapons manufacturers who provide arms to Israel, the Senior Proctor announced his decision to raise in the University’s Council “the concerns regarding possible University investments in arms manufacturers and ask whether the University’s policy of socially responsible investment is being adhered to.” One of our central demands was that Balliol College cancel ‘the Peace Lectures as Inaugurated by Shimon Peres,’ due to Shimon Peres’ shameful historic record as the father of Israeli nuclear program and as a warmonger and defender of the latest Israeli aggression in Occupied Palestine. The Senior Proctor announced in his statement that he has “written to the Master of Balliol drawing his attention to the protestors’ concerns about the proposed title of the lecture series inaugurated by Shimon Peres.”
Amy Gilligan states “whereas we welcome the Senior Proctor’s statement and view it as a positive step in upholding the University’s commitment to universal human rights, it is our view that the University should take a stronger stance condemning the horrendous attacks on Palestinian students and educational institutions. We moreover insist that the promised steps be pursued and applied in full.” James Norrie further notes that “we insist on our demand that Balliol College immediately cancel the ‘Lectures Inaugurated by Shimon Peres.’ These tarnish the College’s reputation and render it complicit in the illegal actions of the Apartheid Israeli state of which Peres is a leader and a symbol.” Honour Brabazon declares: “as well as in Oxford, victories have been achieved in SOAS, LSE and Sussex. Similar occupations are ongoing in numerous other universities including Cambridge, King’s, Warwick and Queen Mary’s. This reflects the solidarity of UK academic communities with the occupied Palestinian people.” Oxford students will be deliberating further responses in a meeting to be held tonight.
Juliette Harkin +44 (0) 774081-8376
Omar Al Shehabi +44 (0) 796657-0155
From the official University website:
28 January 2009
On Thursday, 22 January, a number of students occupied part of the Clarendon Building, and in doing so, sought to publicise their deep concern about the recent conflict in the Middle East and the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. As students, they particularly wanted to draw attention to the destruction of a large part of the university in Gaza. They also wished the University of Oxford to make a statement about the situation, and to try to help students from Gaza – who will not now be able to study for some time – by offering scholarships and other aid to help repair the educational infrastructure.
I am pleased to say that the points raised by the protestors have been considered carefully. The Vice-Chancellor has written to colleagues about the matter. He has also asked me to answer some points arising from my own discussions with the students and deal with points that are more suitably made by the Proctors.
All of us in Oxford believe in the transformational power of education and learning. We have a duty not only to hone and express our own beliefs, but to listen and to learn from each other and to speak with each other, regardless of how far apart initial positions may seem. As Senior Proctor I hope that Oxford will play its part in enabling deep and tolerant discourse on a range of difficult problems. This may not produce solutions; but it might lead to real leadership for the future. In the present case, it will be a challenge to the Palestinian community and its supporters and to those who hold other views, to see how well we can all respond to our different initial viewpoints within the academic traditions of Oxford.
The Vice-Chancellor has articulated his view clearly that the views of the protestors were no doubt sincerely held, and that they are certainly not alone in holding them.
Those protesting raised six specific issues, and I deal with them in turn.
1. Free speech. The University believes in free speech and in the right in a democratic society to lawful protest. As Senior Proctor, I cannot condone the occupation of a University building. This is a University offence; but I welcome the fact that this protest was peaceful and good-natured.
2. The Vice-Chancellor’s letter expresses concern for the recent conflict in the Middle East and for the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. It also notes the recent statement of the President of Universities UK supporting ‘calls for an end to the conflict in and beyond Gaza’. It is regrettable that many civilian casualties occurred in educational establishments.
3. It was agreed that efforts to attract endowments to fund scholarships at Oxford for the most academically talented Palestinian students, to help lessen some of the obstacles to education that now prevail, would be welcome.
4. There is also agreement that help might be offered to restore the damaged educational infrastructure, as it would elsewhere, by making available surplus books, journals and other educational materials and resources. This should be done in consultation with academic colleagues in Gaza so as to ensure that appropriate materials might be provided.
5. As Senior Proctor, I have now written to the Master of Balliol drawing his attention to the protestors’ concerns about the proposed title of the lecture series inaugurated by Shimon Peres.
6. I have decided to raise in Council the concerns regarding possible University investments in arms manufacturers and ask whether the University’s policy of socially responsible investment is being adhered to.
7. Lastly and additionally I report that I have received representations from academic colleagues who have volunteered their time to help teach in Gaza and help during the restoration of university facilities there.
Note: The occupation of University property or facilities, and disruption of the activities of the University, are offences. They are described under the Code of Discipline in Statute XI.2 of the University, and the Proctors have a duty to uphold this Statute. Moreover sections of the criminal law may also apply. In the present case, I wish to state that negotiations with those occupying the building and their representatives were held with goodwill and in a very constructive manner. This led to an early and peaceful departure of those occupying the building.
As Senior Proctor, I can not agree an amnesty from prosecution under the Statutes. However in pursuing any consequent action, I shall recommend that account be taken of the fact that all occupiers of the building left by 19.00 the same day; no damage was reported; no complaints were received from any of the library staff whose offices were occupied; and that two protestors remained behind to make sure the rooms were tidy. In the light of these circumstances I am minded on this occasion to recommend a relatively lenient course of action.
However it must be clearly understood that any future offences of this kind will be viewed as serious disciplinary matters by the Proctors.
Campaign Against Arms Trade:
Dear student occupiers,
Just wanted to send a message of solidarity from Campaign Against Arms Trade to those of you who have occupied your universities in solidarity with Gaza and to those of you who are continuing to do so.
It is really exciting to see such a resurgence of direct action against the war and militarism on campus taking place, and to see the occupations spreading across the country. Your demands are important and it is impressive how many have been won!
I guess you are already in touch with each other, but wanted to offer our CAAT riseup list as a way students involved in actions around the country can stay in touch with each other during and following the occupations – send a blank email to CAATunisfirstname.lastname@example.org to join it.
When student activists met in November, Wed 11 Feb was chosen as a Day of Action around the arms trade at universities. It would be fantastic if you were interested in taking action on this day so that together we can emphasise the strength of opposition to universities’ involvement with the arms trade and to the invasion of Gaza. We will work hard here to get national press coverage of actions around the country so let us know what you are up to!
Well done for taking direct action against the war!
Local Campaigns Co-ordinator
Campaign Against Arms Trade
11 Goodwin Street
London N4 3HQ
Peter Tatchell, human rights campaigner and Green Party parliamentary candidate for Oxford East:
I support the student protesters and their admirable stand against the slaughter of civilians in Gaza. The key to peace with justice, and to security for all sides in the conflict, is Israel’s withdrawal to its pre-1967 borders and the creation of a viable, independent and sovereign Palestinian state. In reciprocation, armed Palestinian groups should cease their attacks on Israelis.
Oxford University should disinvest from BAE and other companies that supply arms to Israel’s war machine, and should fund scholarships for Palestinian students, as a contribution to the educational empowerment of those adversely affected by the conflict.