Pro-Palestine campus occupations spread in UK, as universities warned over Israel ties

Students are occupying UK university campuses to protest against Israel’s assault on Gaza, following the wave of activism in the US where police continue with their violent crackdown on protestors.  

In Leeds, Newcastle and Bristol students have set up tents outside university buildings to show solidarity with Palestinians, while student groups in other universities are expected to follow suit.

Elsewhere, marches and rallies organised by student activists have expressed outrage over the bombing of Gaza.

The protests unfold as a British legal organisation warns UK universities that they could face prosecution over their financial investments in companies that supply arms to Israel or operate in Israeli settlements.

The UK protests follow the much larger demonstrations across the US where police have arrested hundreds.  

Violent scenes broadcast around the world, particularly with the forcible removal of students occupying a building at Columbia University, has further galvanised support for the student movements in the US and elsewhere. 

In the UK, the large protest marches in London and other major cities have dominated the spotlight but a quieter student-led movement has also taken root on UK campuses. 

These ave received less attention and a more subdued response from the police compared to what critics say is the harsh crackdown on freedom of speech in the US.

Students want universities to end financial investments linked to the Israeli government and military.

82 British unis alerted of potential criminal complicity

The growing student pressure against universities comes as the London-based International Centre of Justice for Palestinians (ICJP) writes to 82 British universities, alerting them of potential criminal liability over investments in arms companies and Israeli settlements. 

The letters tell universities that profiting from weapons suppliers may be a criminal offence because they can be used to commit war crimes. The letters warn this could put university officers at risk of prosecution in the UK or elsewhere.

ICJP outlines there is enough evidence of Israel’s “war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide”, but it can provide additional eyewitness testimonies if needed, including evidence already given to Scotland Yard’s War Crimes Unit. 

ICJP Senior Legal Officer Dania Abul Haj said: “The massive crackdown on civil liberties we are seeing in the US is a huge catalyst. This money is paid to the universities by the students, and yet their voice is being totally disregarded in how it is being immorally invested.

“Elbit Systems, Caterpillar, BAE Systems and other companies that British universities invest in are not only potentially complicit in Israel’s latest assault on Gaza, but they have a track record of providing equipment that has been used in home demolitions, the illegal Israeli separation wall in the West Bank and around Jerusalem, and other tools of apartheid. 

“Investment in these companies was already morally bankrupt, but in the current circumstances, it is beyond belief that universities, which are educational institutions, paving the way for future generations of leaders and politicians, would continue to invest in them.”


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