Leicester Students’ Union (SU) stand in full solidarity with our Palestinian siblings across the globe who have endured or have family members who have endured and continue to endure daily violence under Israel’s 73 year-long racist settler colonial regime, whereby Palestinians have been subject to relentless expulsions and ethnic cleansing. We stand in particular solidarity with students, staff and their families who have been affected.
Recent escalations are a direct consequence of the Israeli Defence Force’s (IDF) indiscriminate assault on worshippers in and surrounding the Al-Aqsa Mosque during the holy month of Ramadan as well as the state-sanctioned expulsions of native Palestinians from the neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah, all of which contravene international law.
It should go without saying that we condemn all innocent casualties. However, we reject the false equivalences drawn between the experiences of Palestinians with that of Israelis, and the violence committed on both sides. This narrative only serves to sanitise the crimes committed by the Israeli state and downplay the Palestinian lived experience. It fails to acknowledge the clear power dynamic present whereby Palestinians have been subject to decades of ethnic cleansing at the hands of a Western-backed military power. At the root of tensions is the Israeli apartheid system, as affirmed by legal & human rights experts, academics and United Nations (UN) reports. This seeks to gradually erase Palestinians, strip them of their existence, lands and rights as well any fragment of their culture.
In December 2018, students at Union Council voted resoundingly in favour of the SU standing in support of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement which as called for by Palestinian civil society, demands that we as consumers do not purchase from companies complicit in the occupation, and that these companies and institutions of education divest from any complicity in the apartheid project, and that national governments apply sanctions to the state of Israel, as a means to end the occupation of Palestine. More details of what BDS entails can be found here.
We have seen commitments from both the SU and University to decolonisation. Decolonisation is not a metaphor and is not a process limited to just the curriculum. Therefore, in collaboration with the Palestine Society, we call on both students and the University to undertake and/or adopt the following:
Make an active effort to educate yourselves about the racist oppression that Palestinians face using referenced sources as well as this reading list: https://www.versobooks.com/lists/4302-palestine-must-be-free-reading-list
We ask that students sign this petition calling for the government to apply sanctions against the State of Israel for breaking international law, including the blocking of the sales of arms: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/585314
Freedom of Information (FOI) requests in 2018 from the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) have revealed that the University of Leicester has £180,575 worth of investments in companies complicit in the occupation. We ask that the University provide us with the latest figures and divest from these companies, as per their ethical investment policy.
We urge our students to engage with BDS within their personal means and using the PSC’s University Complicity Database and this template, we ask that students demand that their contributions in tuition fees are not used to inadvertently enable oppression in a letter to the Vice-Chancellor (firstname.lastname@example.org).
We would encourage students to break through the noise and follow the University of Leicester Palestine Society on your social media outlets to keep up-to-date with the situation in Palestine and see what you can do to support.
The student movement and SUs, including our very own, have a rich history of anti-racist solidarity and activism. The student movement was integral to the toppling of the apartheid regime in South Africa through its commitment to boycotting and divesting from companies enabling the apartheid regime. Through engaging with BDS, we believe through collective power that the occupation of Palestine will end.
The call for Palestinian liberation is firmly rooted in anti-racist struggle and in the principle that none of us are free until all of us are free. We ask that students are wary of their language, be mindful of what they promote and put on social media in what is an incredibly sensitive time. Any effort to co-opt the Palestinian cause for Antisemitic, Islamophobic or racist agendas will be condemned and dealt with in accordance to SU disciplinary policy as well as the University’s ‘Dignity & Respect’ policy, and ultimately does not help anyone, least of all Palestinians.
We also condemn efforts by stakeholders within the Higher Education sector and student movement to bypass the democratic mandate of SU officers, gaslight, smear and bully Palestinian and/or pro-liberation students, activists, academics and SUs.
For anyone wanting to report cases of religious intolerance or racism, we would encourage using the University’s report and support tool which can be found here.
We appreciate that this will have been a harrowing couple of days for some of our students, with the trauma of recent events taking its toll. For those needing support be it academic or otherwise, we would recommend the following avenues:
In solidarity and in the hope of a free Palestine in our lifetime,
Your Students’ Union Executive Officer Team