Image Credit: Cameron Samuel Keys for The Oxford Student

Palestine liberation protest criticises University

Demonstrators calling for the liberation of Palestine gathered outside of the Clarendon Building on Broad Street today. The demonstration was organised by Action Against Oxford War Crimes and Oxford Palestine Society.

Announcing the event, Oxford Palestine Society pointed to the University accepting “millions in research and consultancy funding from companies found by Amnesty international to fail to ‘demonstrate adequate human rights due diligence’”.

Speakers at the protest forcefully criticised the University of Oxford. They drew attention to Oxford’s status as one of the top 5 UK universities in receipt of funds from money from arms manufacturers including Lockheed Martin, BAE Systems, and Rolls-Royce. 

Protesters chanted: “Oxford Uni you can’t hide, you’re supporting genocide”. One speaker stated that “only a revolutionary solution can bring Palestinian liberation.”

In addition, they also critiqued the University’s apparent hypocrisy in their University of Sanctuary status, which was granted earlier this year. A speaker said that Oxford “creates displacement and then profits from those fleeing.”

One speaker stated that the University was complicit in the “genocide being perpetuated against the Palestinian people by the Israeli state” and that it “[acts] and [enables] systematic oppression of Palestinians”. They went on to say that the “reason why the University takes money is that [weapons] are used in the systems upholding imperialism and white supremacy all across the world.”

Protesters carried signs with text reading slogans such as “Freedom for Palestine”, and “£190m accepted by Sanctuary Unis from Lockheed Martin, BAE, Rolls Royce, and more”.

One of the eight Labour councillors that resigned last week, Jabu Nala-Hartley, spoke at the demonstration. Throughout her speech, the former Labour councillor stated that Israel had created an apartheid state in Palestine. She said that Labour is sending out a message that “it is okay for Israel to obliterate Palestinians” and that Keir Starmer has “shown his true colours.”

Nala-Hartley invoked Nelson Mandela in stating that the struggle against apartheid in South Africa was “intertwined” with the struggle in Palestine. 

A speaker later began to chant, “Keir Starmer, blood on your hands”, as well as, “Rishi Sunak, blood on your hands”, “BBC, blood on your hands” and “Oxford Uni, blood on your hands.”

There was a general consensus among speakers that the most important course of action for those who support Palestine is to go to the protest happening in London this weekend. One speaker urged people to wear black and have a respectful tone, to demonstrate mourning for those lost in the conflict.

A student who spoke urged those who were part of JCRs and MCRs to propose motions and speak up using this forum.

A student organiser, who also spoke at the protest, stated: “Oxford University has been taking funds from Lockheed Martin and BAE systems, who are funding the arms that the Israeli state are using to bomb and do an active genocide against the Palestinians. We are here to protest that, and get them to stop.”

An organiser for Socialist Appeal in Oxford, who also spoke at the protest, stated: “The working class movement has a proud history of international solidarity that we should uphold […] it’s very obvious that the power to change anything is going to come from no one but us.”

A spokesperson for the University expressed their “primary focus is the health and well-being of staff and students impacted by the terrible events in Israel and Gaza, and it has written directly to those affected to offer welfare and other types of support”.

The “University and its colleges are working to ensure all members of our community are supported as much as possible, and [they] will continue to respond as appropriate as the situation develops”.

Today’s protest follows a demonstration of around 300 people standing with Palestine earlier this month, alongside one last week in Wellington Square with 100 protestors urging the University to “act against genocide”.

Since Hamas’ initial attack on 7 October, at least 3,793 people in Gaza and 1,400 people in Israel have died in the hostilities. Most of these casualties have been civilians on both sides.

Image Credit: Cameron Samuel Keys for The Oxford Student