Students organised the sit in after attending an emergency meeting in Oxford organised to discuss the war on Gaza and the precarious ceasefire. Members of the University entered the Clarendon building and sat down at 1200, British time, on Thursday 22nd January. Their demands were presented to University officials.
The group represents a broad spectrum of concerned students and has the support of peace campaigners here in Oxford. They want the University Proctor to express solidarity with Palestinian academic community and condemning the attack on the educational infrastructure.
“Palestinians have the same rights as we do, including the right to education as enshrined in the United Nations Universal Declaration on Human Rights. We are proud to be students at Oxford University and do not want the University to contribute in any way to the undermining of the right to education. It is not a matter of politics, it is a matter of humanity,” a spokesperson said.
Students demand that the Master of Balliol College cancel the lecture series inaugurated by Shimon Peres. The group are also demanding that Oxford University divests from arms firm BAE Systems, an arms company who supply the Israeli military.
“The fact that Oxford University invests in BAE Systems means that it is directly profiting from the collective punishment of the Palestinian people. Our University cannot be funded by unlawful military aggression. Oxford University must divest from BAE and other arms companies immediately.
Students have also issued several demands related to providing material support for Palestinian students including providing 5 fully paid scholarships for Palestinian students and resources for education in Gaza.
Numerous Oxford academics as well as the Oxford University Islamic Society, the Oxford Palestine Society, the Oxford Indian and the Oxford Pakistan societies have already signed petitions condemning the Israeli attack on Gaza.
DEMANDS IN FULL
Oxford University should release a statement in support of the right of Palestinians to education and its support to the Palestinian Academic community. The University should condemn in particular the attack on the Islamic University in Gaza.
Oxford University currently holds investments in BAE Systems, a firm that the Campaign Against the Arms Trade (caat.org.uk) states provides weapons and ammunition for the Israeli military. This means that our university is being directly funded by the Israeli war on Gaza. Oxford University must divest from BAE and other companies which supply arms to Israel.
3) 5 fully paid scholarships for Palestinian students.
Particularly after the attack on Gaza and the ongoing hardships suffered by Palestinians, Oxford University should offer 5 fully-funded scholarships to Palestinian students as a way to contribute to greater access to education for those affected by the conflict.
4) A cancellation lecture series inaugurated by Shimon Peres
The group demands that the Master of Balliol College cancel the lecture series that was inaugurated by the Israeli President Shimon Peres. It is not appropriate to have such a lecture series in light of the attack on Gaza and the ongoing siege.
5) Resources for Education.
The Oxford University should donate resources to, and support, the University and educational infrastructure that have been bombed in Gaza.
6) Right to Peaceful Protest
Oxford University has a proud history of student activism. Students united to campaign against apartheid, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. All students have a democratic right to peaceful protest and students should not be prevented from expressing their opinions by fear of reprisals.
MEDIA CONTACTS FOR THE STUDENT GROUP
Juliette Harkin 07740818376
Omar al-Shehabi 07966570155 (for Arabic media)
NOTES TO EDITORS:
1) Oxford University is the 8th University to go into occupation and joins SOAS, LSE, Warwick, Essex, Kings College London, Birmingham and Sussex universities.
2) The Oxford University occupation follows on from emergency meetings about Gaza and a well orchestrated protest in October 2007 against the decision of Balliol College, Oxford University, to inaugurate a lecture series in the name of Shimon Peres, president of Israel and responsible for atrocities against the Palestinian people.
If you are able to join the occupation itself, it might be worth bringing food/water/bedding in case the situation changes and there's an opportunity for more people to get inside. Up to you :-)
Having said all that, they did acheive at least a few concessions, which isn't bad for a 6 hour occupation! And since I wasn't inside I can hardly criticise the decision; the main thing is that they did something, and that there is now a more organised Gaza solidarity group of students which may go on to do more actions.
The full details of what was agreed hasn't yet been released; most worryingly of all, it will be finalised tomorrow morning, *after* the occupation has ended. Some things were announced but I won't repeat them here as I regard them as just rumour until the final agreement is confirmed.