21 March 2024

Skwawkbox reports that students at Bristol University students have occupied the Wills Building where graduate ceremonies are held and issued the administration a set of demands to end its complicity in Israel’s murderous assault on the people of Gaza. No doubt conservative circles will issue loud complaints about the students’ behaviour. They should bear in mind that the interim judgment of the Interim Court of Justice declaring that a ‘plausible’ case of genocide has been made against Israel requires the University and other institutions to avoid any action that further contributes to the genocide.

Students occupy Bristol uni building in protest at ‘profits from genocide’

Students demand divestment and an end to academic ties

Bristol University students have taken control of one of the university’s Wills Memorial Building in a protest to demand an end to its ‘complicity with arms companies’ and to call for a series of actions on its part to ‘support Palestine and Palestinians’:

The demanded actions include:

  • an end to cooperation with weapons manufacturers
  • protection for Palestinian students and special consideration for those taking exams who have been affected by Israel’s slaughter in Gaza
  • protection for anti-Zionist beliefs among staff and students – an issue on which Bristol university has a shameful record and has been the scene of intense pressure campaigns by pro-Israel groups claiming that anti-Zionism, opposition to the settler-colonial state that has displaced Palestinians and treats them as inferior
  • recognition of the existence of Palestine – an existence denied by hardcore supporters of Israel
  • scholarships for Palestinian refugees

Israel has killed over forty thousand Palestinian civilians, more than two thirds of them women and children, and injured twice as many, in its genocidal assault on Gaza and has ignored orders from the International Court of Justice to cease its slaughter and allow food, fuel and medicines into Gaza immediately. Gaza is now in famine, with experts predicting that more will die in the coming months from hunger and disease than from Israel’s bombs, missiles and bullets, with children again worst affected.

The group is also demanding an end to the use of a ‘check-in’ system that tracks the location of students.

Wednesday’s action is not the first by Bristol students demanding justice for Palestinians and an end to discrimination against them and their supporters. Four months ago, students protested in the university’s ‘profits from genocide’:

And earlier this month, a group occupied Bristol University’s Victoria Rooms in a pro-Gaza protest.

The British government has mounted a pressure campaign against universities, threatening to defund them if they allow ‘extremism’ or ‘antisemitism’ in the form of pro-Palestinian speech and activism. Shamefully, a number of universities have capitulated to pressure from the UK state and from pro-Israel groups claiming that speech against Israel’s crimes and occupation of Palestinian land infringe on their rights and constitutes ‘hate’ toward Jews, even though many UK Jews oppose Israel’s actions and oppression of Palestinians.

Last month, former Bristol professor David Miller won a landmark employment tribunal case against the university, which had sacked him after pressure from pro-Israel groups, despite lawyers it appointed to run two investigations finding that he had said nothing antisemitic. The win set a precedent that anti-Zionist political beliefs are a protected characteristic under equalities law and cannot be used as grounds for dismissal. Skwawkbox understands that Prof Miller is not involved in the students’ protest.

Solidarity with students in Bristol and elsewhere who are demanding an end to complicity in war crimes.