Workers' Weekly On-Line
Volume 54 Number 9, April 27, 2024 ARCHIVE HOME JBCENTRE SUBSCRIBE

World standing with Palestine

University Protests against Gaza War in the US, Britain and Across Europe

Columbia University occupation for Gaza

University and college students have militantly set up encampments at campuses across the US denouncing the US/Israeli genocide on the Palestinian people. They are following the lead of students at Columbia University in New York City, who began their Gaza Solidarity Encampment on April 17. As of April 25, students on at least 38 universities - from Massachusetts to Florida, Michigan to Texas, Minnesota to Arizona and to California - are in action to affirm their right to speak out in defence of the Palestinian people and denounce US/Israeli genocide; demand a ceasefire now and an end to US funding and backing; and for their schools to break links with Israel. At Columbia and elsewhere students and faculty together are also demanding that police get off their campuses.

Demonstration in support of Palestine, Sanaa, Yemen - 19-04-2024

In the second week of protests calling for a ceasefire in Israel's war on Gaza, which has killed more than 34,000 Palestinians and injured over 77,000, thousands of students are calling on dozens of universities to divest from Israel. Some universities have been forced to cancel their graduation ceremonies, while others have seen entire buildings occupied by protesting students. Dozens of students and staff at several US universities have been arrested while protesting against Israel's war on Gaza.

More than 100 students were arrested at Columbia University on April 18 for their protest actions after the New York Police were unjustly called in by the university's president Minouche Shafik. More than 50 students were suspended, evicted from their dorms, denied access to dining halls, medical insurance and financial aid. Despite this and because of this, the students are undeterred and continue to win public support.

A notable aspect of the many actions is the participation of Jewish students who are prominently defying the attempt of the US administration and Zionists to equate being Jewish with being Zionist and the claim that pro-Palestinian demonstrators all over the US are extremists, anti-Semitic and hate-mongers. At Columbia University on the evening of April 19, the Jewish students held a Seder meal at the encampment alongside many Muslim students. Nonetheless, various Zionist organisations on and off campus continue to declare that pro-Palestinian protests are anti-Semitic.

One of the latest to join the movement is The City University of New York (CUNY), where hundreds of students have set up an encampment on campus with banners with slogans like "No More Investment in Apartheid". Gabby Aossey, a student organiser at the CUNY protest told Al Jazeera the mobilisation of young pro-Palestinian people in the US is "beautiful to see". "Young people are really starting to show up and demand that schools are held accountable for their relationship with the Israeli colonisation," Aossey said.

Across the US, university leaders have tried, and largely failed, to quell the demonstrations. The police have intervened violently, with videos emerging from different states showing hundreds of students - and even faculty members - being forcefully arrested.

Early on Saturday, police in riot gear cleared an encampment on the campus of Northeastern University in Boston. Several dozen students shouted and booed at them from a distance, but the scene was otherwise not confrontational.

Chile Santiago, Palestina Football Club Embajada del Estado de Palestina

Youth are taking their place worldwide in actions to demand a ceasefire now in Gaza and that the US and Britain stop arming Israel. As well as the actions at the US universities and on European streets, student demonstrators have gathered at universities across Britain, such as University College London, and similar scenes were seen across Europe, Australia and elsewhere.

In Berlin, activists set up a camp in front of parliament to demand the German government stop exporting arms to Israel. At the renowned Sciences Po university in the French capital Paris, protesters on Friday blockaded a central campus building, forcing classes to be held online.

The latest pro-Palestine rally in Sweden on Saturday saw people marching in the streets to chants of "Free Palestine" and "Boycott Israel".

In Britain, the University of York has been forced to divest from weapons and arms manufacturers tied to Israel after a series of protests from a student-led coalition. York University stopped its investments in weapons and arms manufacturers tied to Israel following prolonged pressure from its students and staff. The University confirmed that it has divested from arms companies linked to Israel following protests, rallies, marches and action from the institution's student-led coalition.

The Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) and the University of York Palestinian Solidarity Society announced the news in a joint Instagram post. "After prolonged protests, rally's, marches and direct action by students, the University of York has been forced to complete full divestment from weapons and arms manufacturers and announced this through a public statement on 11th of April 2024," the post said, adding that they will continue with their campaign to hold the university to account and call for a ceasefire in Gaza.

According to PSC's research, a freedom of information request revealed that the university has invested a total of £33,251 into two tech companies, Cisco Systems and Smiths Group. PSC says Cisco design technologies used by Israel to facilitate its occupation of Palestinian territories. Smiths Group applied for 32 arms export licenses to Israel to the British government and has supplied many components to the F-35 Lightning programme, which has been used in Israel's 2021 strikes on Gaza. PSC found that UK Universities collectively invest over £420 million in companies linked to Israel's violations of international law.

Students from the University of Warwick set up an encampment in its piazza, calling for the institution to divest from companies they say are linked to Israel's war on Gaza. At University College London, students staged a rally calling for a free Palestine and an end to the occupation.

In fact, student actions have been developing at universities in Britain for some time.

For example, Roar reports that on March 12, students from King's College London (KCL) staged a sit-in protest in the entryway to Strand campus. Protestors sat on the ground in front of the security gates at the main entrance to the Strand building, bearing flags, placards and megaphones. The students delivered speeches to the students going into and coming out of the building, chanting slogans like "KCL you can't hide, we charge you with genocide" and "Israel is a terrorist state".

The protesters carried placards including a list of demands for the university. These read:

Call for a permanent ceasefire
Divest from funds that directly and indirectly profit from 'Israeli' occupation and war crimes
Re-issue a statement addressing the genocide
Establish 50 funded scholarships for Palestinians
End 'Israeli' educational ties
Revoke IHRA antisemitism definition & make a working group for a new one

The determination of students across the country is increasing as they step up support for Palestine, and demand an end to the funding and complicity of universities in the Israeli genocide.

(TML, Roar, The New Arab, Al Jazeera, other news sources)

Washington, USA

Occupations at Leeds University and Warwick University

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