WHAT DOES THIS HAVE TO DO WITH NOTTINGHAM UNIVERSITY?
The demands that we have made reflect the ultimate principle that the University should compensate for the support that it has provided to one side in this conflict, namely Israel; and that the University -in it’s capacity as a transnational education institution- has a moral duty to the international community to uphold and defend the right to education as provided for by article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The University maintains strong ties with arms manufacturers through, among other things, the large sum of research sponsorship money it receives from weapons companies such as BAE Systems and the Smiths Group, who supply parts for the F-16 fighter jets used by the Israeli military. This same military equipment has played a key role in the ongoing human rights abuses and huge civilian casualties which the IDF has inflicted on the people of Palestine.
The University also maintains a large investment portfolio which includes further funds invested with weapons development companies which supply Israel.
This, in conjunction with a podcast broadcast on the official university portal strongly in support of Israels’ actions, suggests that in this conflict the University has already chosen sides ideologically and politically as well as economically.
For this reason, we the protesters demand that the University take actions in its capacity as an educational institution to support the people of Gaza, defend the inalienable, universal right to education and help to rectify some of the damage done.
SO WHY OCCUPY?
Students of Nottingham have been campaigning for the University to end these ties with weapons companies for years, with very limited success. With relation to these and similar issues, the University has so far demonstrated a blanket approach of refusing to engage in serious dialogue with students.
During previous campaigns which enjoyed broad-based support, the University showed itself unwilling to take the wishes of students seriously. The anti-Starbucks campaign exhausted all conventional channels, including persistent weekly protests, a motion in the Student Union Council condemning the presence of Starbucks, a University-wide poll indicating that the vast majority of students would prefer a fairtrade alternative, and a petition signed by many hundreds of students. Despite all of this, the university management completely ignored the students and Starbucks coffee continues to be served in Hallward Library, nearly a year an a half after the first protest took place.
Frustrated by this consistent lack of engagement, students have been driven to a more direct form of protest to make the University consider their demands, and are acting in solidarity with a broader student occupation movement across the UK.
For information on Nottingham University ties with companies involved in the arms trade click here.
For information on specific weapons manufacturers’ trade with Israel click here.
WERE WE DISRUPTIVE?
The university management are seeking to justify their forceful eviction of our peaceful sit-in by claiming that the occupation was ‘disrupting the education of other students.’
We stated explicitly in our communications to senior management, on the evening the occupation began, that any disruption of our peer’s education was expressly against our wishes. We made our position very clear, guaranteeing that we would maintain a diminished, strictly silent and unobtrusive presence during lectures. Throughout the occupation we took steps to ensure that B62 was a fully functional, clean and pleasant learning environment, and used the space to host a number of talks, film screenings, entertainments and events.
On Thursday morning, Stephen Dudderidge, Director of Student Operations and Support, decided to reschedule or cancel all the lectures that would have taken place in the occupied lecture hall. This was against our wishes and despite our continued reassurance that we would create no disruption. We notified the Vice Chancellor of our deep concern regarding this. The decision was also made without the University authorities contacting the appropriate lecturers, some of whom had already expressed their willingness to conduct classes as usual in communication with us. The university authorities refused to engage in reasonable discussion on this matter, or to reconsider their unnecessary decision.
Disruption and rescheduling of lectures was a direct result of decisions taken by senior management, not by ourselves. We believe this was the deliberate and calculated manufacture of a pretext designed to justify the use force against a peaceful demonstration.
WHAT ABOUT HAMAS?
Over the course of the occupation, protesters have frequently been asked about their stance toward Hamas, whether the protest could be construed as supporting this organisation, and whether we condemn their actions in Gaza and Israel.
We have conducted this occupation to voice our opposition to the support which our university has provided to Israel, through its direct involvement with weapons development companies that supply the Israeli military.
We condemn the firing of thousands of rockets into southern Israel over the past 8 years by Hamas’ military wing and other armed factions within Gaza. However, this does not mean that we do not recognise the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination and to resist the illegal occupation of their homeland and the oppression inflicted upon them, as described in the Geneva conventions relating to the rights of an occupied people.
Our protest is humanitarian and against civilian casualties, and we therefore condemn the deliberate targeting of civilians on both sides.
No mention of Hamas is made in our demands because we are unaware of any links between the University institution and Hamas. If such links exist and are brought to our attention, then we will of course incorporate them into our demands. Further, we are not aware that Hamas’ actions have significantly affected the right to education in Israel, and should good evidence that the right to education in Israel has been severely damaged, to the point of crisis by the recent conflict, we will of course add to our demands, more scholarships for Israeli students and academic aid for Israeli educational institutions.