Credit: Cameron Samuel Keys

OA4P read the names of ‘martyrs’ on the steps of The Clarendon

At 8am on the 11th of June a reading of the known names of individuals who have been killed in Gaza since Israel’s invasion, began on the steps of The Clarendon. Organised by Oxford Action for Palestine (OA4P), names will be read continuously over Tuesday and Wednesday, starting at 10am on Wednesday and ending by 7:30 on both days. 

A banner behind the speaker reads “A reading of all the known names of Palestinian martyrs since 7th October 2023.” The Hamas-run health ministry says that as of Saturday 8th June, the death toll in Gaza is 37,084. An OA4P sign outside their protest notes that only 20,390 names are known. 

In a statement given to The Oxford Student, OA4P explained that “At least 37,164 Palestinians have been martyred, and at least 16,694 of their names are unknown. To honour them, we are holding a reading of all the known names of Palestinian martyrs since October. We started today at 8am in front of the Clarendon building. After thirteen hours, we read over 10,000 names. There are still over 10,000 names left. We will continue starting 10am tomorrow. Just today, in the 13 hours of reading, we needed to update our count with 40 additional confirmed martyrs because the genocide has not stopped.”

The word ‘Martyr’ is common in the context of Palestinine. An Al-Jazeera report on teenagers in  Palestine identified that “when asked what they aspired to be when they grew up. [many responded] “Martyrs,”. More broadly, Israeli historian Meir Litvak, has argued that this concept is central to how Hamas views their struggle, presenting it “as the epitome of jihad and of Islamic belief.” 

The term is also used in the context of the controversial Palestinian Authority Martyrs Fund. This is a fund that provides grants to the families of those who are imprisoned in Israeli jails. While critics have argued it encourages individuals to commit acts of violence against Israel, the Israeli Policy Forum has explained that because “the IDF regularly carries out arbitrary arrests of Palestinians, detains them without charges, and tries them in military courts that have a nearly 100 percent conviction rate,” it is wrong to characterise all individuals who receive these payments as violent.

OA4P have explained they “choose to use the word martyr, shaheed in Arabic, because every Palestinian death is part of a resistance against Israeli occupation.” 

This comes 37 days after the first encampment was set up outside the Pitt Rivers museum to protest the University’s relations with the state of Israel and Israeli institutions. Last week the Vice Chancellor agreed to meet members of the university openly involved in the encampment to “fully integrate” the individuals with the University’s “conversations and efforts” surrounding “education”, with plans to “broaden the conversation out to where we [The University] are with investments”.