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Jesus JCR makes statement calling for ceasefire in Gaza

The Jesus College JCR released a statement this Sunday calling for an “immediate and permanent ceasefire” in the conflict in Gaza. This comes after weeks of negotiations between JCR members, as well as the JCR committee, college staff, and even alumni.

The statement, posted on the JCR’s Instagram account this Sunday, called for “an immediate and permanent ceasefire, the restoration of unhindered passage of water, food, fuel and humanitarian assistance, and the release of all hostages being held”. 

This follows a motion passed in a JCR extraordinary meeting, which was convened at the discretion of the JCR President at the time. 

The motion noted various statistics regarding the situation to date in Gaza, including the number of deaths on both sides, and the number of displaced civilians. 

It also proposed that the Principal of the College and its Governing Body call for “an immediate and unconditional permanent ceasefire in Gaza”, and that the JCR release a statement calling for the same matter, as well as a “lift of the siege and restoring unhindered passage of water, food, fuel, and humanitarian assistance, and a release of all hostages”. 

The motion passed overwhelmingly, with 89% in favour, 5% abstaining, and 7% against.

The statement, after numerous precautions of inclusivity and numerous assertions of standing with all students, called for an “immediate and permanent ceasefire”, “restoring unhindered passage”, and the “release of all hostages”.

The proposer of the motion, Edgar Viola, expressed his disappointment about the wording of the post, which did not include the “unconditional ceasefire” or the “lift of the siege”, unlike voted in the motion. He cited an “individual and private decision” made by the JCR committee.

In a statement to The Oxford Student, Viola regretted that the motion was “not passed without resistance”, and the four-week delay in the voting of the motion, which he attributed to “continuous meetings [between the JCR President and the College Principal]”. He claimed that at one point “external Jesus alumni lawyers were contacted [to advise] the JCR President”, and that they deemed it to be “liable to cause offence”, with little to no information being committed to the rest of the JCR.

Viola also expressed his discontent about the parts of the statement removed before its publication, also including “any explicit mention of Gaza”. He attributed this to “the concerning level of censorship […] across the UK”. Viola said he was “looking forward to more action to come”, and that he “won’t stop until Palestine is free”.

The JCR President commented to The Oxford Student that the process of passing this motion had been “lengthy and difficult”, but that it was “imperative” to “find a middle ground” between the “welfare of all JCR members” and the “respecting freedom of speech of its members”.

To Viola’s claims that the College had interfered in JCR affairs, the JCR President replied that “the college itself is in no way affiliated with the statement made”. While he was “offered advice about the reliability of certain sources [by people] unrelated to college”, the JCR President stated that this “did not influence the post”.

A spokesperson for Jesus College commented: “The welfare, wellbeing, and safety of all students and staff are, and will remain, Jesus College’s priority. We will continue to work to ensure that all members of our community are supported as and when that support is needed. JCR motions are a matter for the JCR.”

Earlier this term, similar issues emerged in St Anne’s College, where a motion calling for a donation to Palestinian charities created controversy. The JCR President, after meeting with the College Principal, refused to call for an emergency meeting on the initial motion on grounds of welfare concerns. Instead, a counter-motion was proposed, which took a neutral stance not explicitly in favour of Palestine. This led to a no-confidence motion being circulated, but not put to a vote.

The Oxford Student understands that Pembroke and Exeter College JCRs have passed similar motions calling for a ceasefire in the Middle East, and that numerous colleges have donated money to an Israel-Palestine appeal of various charities throughout Michaelmas term.