Final Press Release – Edinburgh University Student Occupation for Gaza
Student press contact numbers: Dylan 07531880907
At 8:45 on the morning of Monday 16/02/2009 the student occupation of George Square Lecture Theatre came to an end.
We, the occupying students have secured the following…
• A complete end to Eden Springs bottled water on campus by the start of the next academic year (2009/10).
• An opportunity to bring our case regarding the university’s unethical investments directly to the University Court.
• Scholarships for 5 Palestinian students in Gaza to study at Edinburgh University, with consideration for fee waivers, reduced accommodation fees, travel allowances and visa support.
• A collaboration between the university management, student body and an NGO to collect various materials for shipping to Gaza and to fundraise for the implementation of this.
• A lecture and debate series, involving university staff and guest speakers, on various subjects relating to the Palestine/Israel conflict. There has already been interest in this from prominent scholars Ilan Pappe and Noam Chomsky.
We feel that this is only the beginning of the movement to end the university’s role in the occupation and oppression of Palestine by the Israeli government and military. There remain serious issues to which the university’s response was completely inadequate, including the active role of arms and defence companies in university research and on-campus recruitment.
The occupation also provided a place to stage educational events, encouraging active engagement and participation about the issues in question. Highlights included a discussion on the ongoing occupation of Palestine, with the participation of the President of Scottish Jews for a Just Peace and a workshop on ‘direct action’ with ways of defusing confrontational situations. As the week progressed, we at times numbered over 60 students, with a total of several hundred passing through the theatre doors.
We feel it’s important to emphasize that the student occupation should be understood not simply as a tactic or a bargaining chip in getting our demands. Within the space that we took control of, we used consensus decision making to initiate a radically non-hierarchical way of making collective decisions. At it’s best, the occupation provided a space for a process far more democratic than what conventional university structures are able to achieve. The changes we want to see will be attained through our direct action but also by creating such spaces, and expanding them indefinitely.
Two key outcomes of the occupation…
• A planned open forum for reflection and discussion on the student occupation and the university’s reaction in the context of the Gaza conflict.
• An online network to consolidate the occupation group, welcome all who wish to be involved in future action and to take the movement forward immediately and effectively.
We would like to extend a huge thank you to the countless groups and individuals who provided us with material and moral support.
Lastly, we wish to assure Palestinians of Gaza and the West Bank that we will struggle alongside them in solidarity until such time as they are a free and sovereign people.
Watch this space for imminent mailing list, website and networking details for future action… This is only the beginning!
Original Press Release
Student press contact numbers: Dylan 07531880907
Statement from the occupying students: On the morning of Wednesday 11th February Edinburgh University students occupied the George Square Lecture Theatre. We have acted against the university because of its financial and commercial links to the apartheid state of Israel, in addition to its unacceptable silence in response to the Gaza conflict, described by the UN President of the General Assemby, Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann, as “genocide”. We will sit-in until the heads of the university agree to the following demands…
Broadly, we demand that our university demonstrate what should be its inherent opposition, as an educational institution, to Israel’s illegal and shameful behaviours.
Specifically, to ensure the university publicly manifests its position, we demand…
1. BOYCOTT – That the university immediately suspend all contracts and relations with companies enabling the conflict and/or occupation, including Eden Springs. This demand is contingent on access to information to establish which other companies are implicated.
2. DIVESTMENT – That the university divest from and cut all links – specifically on-campus recruitment – with BAE Systems, QinetiQ and all other “arms and defence” manufacturers whose products are proven to be in use by the Israeli military.
3. SCHOLARSHIPS – That the university make full scholarships available to at least 5 students in Gaza, allowing them to attend Edinburgh University. This is a response to the destruction of their universities by the Israeli military, and to other barriers, physical and psychological, which restrict their right to education.
4. AID – That the university collect and make available non-monetary donations to war-damaged Gazan schools and hospitals, including but not limited to text-books, chairs, computers.
5. EDUCATION – That logistical and financial support are provided for a series of informative lectures and debates at Edinburgh, involving university staff and guest speakers, on the Palestine/Israel question during the academic year 2009/10.
6. STUDENT SIT-IN – Lastly, we demand that no legal, financial or academic measures be taken against those participating in, or supporting, a peaceful sit-in to ensure our calls are answered.
There will be rallies and other activities throughout the sit-in, both inside and outside the building. We will endeavour to hold talks and debates, show documentaries and create solidarity artwork. We aim to create an open space, allowing for the constructive and creative spread of awareness on the Gaza conflict and continued oppression of Palestinians throughout the Occupied Territories. Come and see for yourselves!
The occupying students of Edinburgh University