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Students’ mass encampment for Palestine

Students at the University of Sheffield have today (1 May 2024) begun a mass encampment in solidarity with the Palestinian people and in protest against allegations of their university’s complicity in Israeli apartheid and the ongoing bombardment of Gaza. The day started with planned walk-outs of lectures and teaching activities, followed by a demonstration. As the demonstration neared its end, students could be seen setting up tents and gazebos outside university buildings. Combined with solidarity encampments created by students at the Universities of Warwick and Edinburgh last week, this marks the spread of the tactics of the American student movement (as seen at Columbia and at least 30 other US institutions) to the UK. Multiple other coordinated encampments are expected imminently.

The protests are led by the Sheffield Campus Coalition for Palestine (SCCP), a coalition of staff, students, and alumni from the University of Sheffield and Sheffield Hallam University. They are backed by staff members,  local trades unionists, and community groups such as Sheffield Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) and Jews Against Israeli Apartheid. The latter have issued a statement of support, saying they welcome the walk out and  ‘call on all students and staff to do so and resolve to hold their University to account for its complicity with the genocide perpetrated by Israel in Palestine’.

Student demonstrators point to the role played by the university’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) in manufacturing the F-35 combat aircraft used by the Israeli military. The AMRC boasts that its ‘novel, fully automated manufacturing process’ has been used to provide ‘critical fuselage panels’ for more than 500 F-35 Lightning II aircraft, saving arms manufacturer BAE Systems £15 million in costs in the process. A Dutch court recently ordered the country’s government to immediately suspend all exports of F-35 fighter jet parts to Israel, due to concerns that they were being used to violate international law.

A student spokesperson for SCCP said: ‘The university can house decolonial lecturers in their theatres whilst simultaneously profiting off settler-colonial projects. But now the fig leaf has fallen, revealing the University of Sheffield not as an academic institution, but rather as a brazen hub for weapons manufacturers. Most egregiously, the University has been found to have helped streamline and produce the very instruments of warfare Israel used in its ruthless and indiscriminate bombardment of Gaza. It is for that reason that we students have come to charge the university with complicity in the genocide of the Palestinians in Gaza. Our demand is clear: divest now.’

The university’s involvement in F-35 production is part of a pattern of close ties with the arms industry. In 2022, a freedom of information request (FOI) revealed that the University of Sheffield took at least £72 million in investment from the arms trade over the preceding decade. This level of investment is exceptionally high in the context of British higher education. Last year openDemocracy reported that Sheffield University received more defence funding than any other institution, taking over £42m, while Oxford and Cambridge took £17m and £10m respectively.

University of Sheffield Lecturer, Dr Lisa Stampnitzky, said ‘I am proud to see our students taking a stand and joining this worldwide movement against the ongoing genocide in Gaza.   Our university needs to confirm its commitment to be an ethical institution and divest itself of ties to the development of weapons used to perpetrate atrocities.’

Students have expressed concerns about the influence exerted by these companies on the university’s research agenda and teaching. The protesters draw attention to the AMRC’s membership scheme, which allows private companies to mould research priorities, and to the role played by Industrial Advisory Boards (IABs) in some university departments.[1] Both feature representation from arms companies.


[1] See https://www.sheffield.ac.uk/aerospace/about/industry/partners#AerospaceIndustrialAdvisoryBoard; https://www.sheffield.ac.uk/eee/about/working-industry.

SCCP Demands: 

Divest (سحب العلاقات): We call on the University of Sheffield to divest from weapons manufacturing. The University should not be aiding in supplying instruments of warfare to a genocidal state.

Boycott (مقاطعة): We demand that the institution sever all ties to Israeli universities. Israeli academic institutions have long served as pillars of Israel’s system of oppression against Palestinians, with many universities utterly entangled in the violent machinery of Palestinian dispossession, occupation, incarceration, surveillance, siege and most recently genocide.  

Accountability (مساءلة): We hold the University of Sheffield accountable for their complicity in the genocide of the Palestinian people. The campus community demands that the University agree to a meeting with students and staff.

Solidarity – but with who?

On 6th March the Sheffield Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid presented a petition signed by over 7500 Sheffield citizens at a full council meeting. They refused to debate the issue – even though 7500 was well above the threshold number required of 5000 – passing it to the Strategy and Resources committee, as we have reported previously. Instead they committed to issuing ‘a cross-party statement of solidarity’

This statement was issued on 25th March. It is completely inadequate. It does not even mention Palestine in the title so who it is in solidarity with is perplexing and the word Palestinian does not get a mention in the document itself.

This is in complete disregard to the swell of opinion in Sheffield in support of Palestine and in complete contrast to the statement of support for Ukraine.

The council and your councillor is letting us down. We urge you to vote in the local elections on May 5th for the candidate that most sympathetic with Palestine.

You can read the council statement here . You can read the full Coalition response here.

Here are some questions you can put to your candidate

  • Do you accept Amnesty International’s designation of Israel as a state practising Apartheid across historic Palestine?  YES / NO
  • Do you agree with the International Court of Justice that credible evidence exists that Israel is committing the crime of Genocide in Gaza? YES / NO
  • Do you support the International Court of Justice’s inquiry into the legal consequences of the 57 year long Israeli Occupation of Gaza, the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan? YES /NO
  • Do you support the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement? YES/NO

The Big South Yorkshire rally Saturday 20th and station protest 19th April

Now that Israel’s missile attack on diplomatic residence in Damascus has succeeded in stopping the airtime given to the famine in and destruction of for Gaza it is vital we do what we can to keep the genocide in the public eye.

We will have Sheffield Station protest 5pm Friday 19th April. These are really popular and get a huge response from passers by.

And please join our big spring South Yorkshire rally on Saturday 20th April

Actions for April 12th and 13th

This weekend we will mark Palestinian Prisoners’ Day which officially falls on the 18th April.

Since the October war started 6 months ago over 9400 Palestinians are held captive as political prisoners ( see https://www.addameer.org/ ).

Both in the west ban and in Gaza, there has been widespread testimony of torture (https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2023/11/israel-opt-horrifying-cases-of-torture-and-degrading-treatment-of-palestinian-detainees-amid-spike-in-arbitrary-arrests/)

Please bring something you can use as a blindfold if you would like to join in.

Sheffield protests will not stop!

Really great turn out all through this weekend to ensure Palestinian voices continue to be heard .

(All photographs here from Bill Stewardson)

At the train station on Friday, once again we had a moving tribute to all those health workers who have been killed by the Israeli invasion and before that a well supported protest at the top of the station concourse.

And in town on Saturday a key speech oin our short rally was given by Sarah who told us about three actions we can take to support Palestinian football

  • First Action – you can follow Palestine Football here
  • Second Action – You can contact FIFA to call for them to expel the IFA  here
  • Third Action – you can follow Anwar El Ghazi / Sam Morsy / Bohemians on Twitter here: @elghazi1995, @sammorsy08, @bfcdublin

You can read her speech here

Mobile boycott

We then went to Marks and Spencers removed all the Israeli produce from the shelves before walking out to the crowd you can see here in the reflection

Three Days of action this weekend 5th to 7th April

As Israel pleads the ‘most moral army in the world’ has made a terrible mistake when it has killed some white people, let us make sure the voice for Palestine is heard clearly in Sheffield.

When the complicit and racist governments of the West try to unglue themselves from being seen holding the bloody hands of the Israeli government, let us make sure the voice for Palestine is heard clearly in Sheffield.

When Suella Braverman, the arch backer of genocide, declares with no understanding of the deep irony ‘this is the time to stand with Israel if we believe in democracy and human rights’ let us make sure the voice for Palestine is heard clearly in Sheffield.

Join us on

  • Friday at the train station, for a protest and then the weekly moving tribute to the most targeted group of workers, Gazan health workers;
  • on Saturday in front of the Town Hall for a rally at midday
  • on Sunday to cheer on Sheffield Half Marathon runners who are running for Gaza look out for their signs and wave flags: we are suggesting a couple of places 1/ bottom of Knowle Lane as they turn right off Ecclesall Rd South on the way out. Runners will be coming past there from about 9.50 onwards. 2/ Charter Row, near the junction with Fitzwilliam St from about 10.30 onwards.

ACTIONS IN SHEFFIELD FOR EASTER WEEKEND

Israel’s six months of continuous bombardment of Gaza has caused the deathbof over 32,000 people, a third of them children. And 74,400, mostly civilians, have been injured. The survivors live in tents and face famine.

On 26th January, the International Court of Justice, on finding plausible South Africa’s argument that Israel was carrying out genocide, ordered Israel to take a series of measures to prevent further harm to civilians. Since the Court’s preliminary ruling, Israeli bombing has killed thousands more. This is not a war against Hamas but against the Palestinian people.

In the West Bank, and particularly in East Jerusalem, where Israel can’t claim the pretext that Hamas is a major threat, Israel has stepped up the
demolitions of Palestinians homes and, in rural areas, with its army’s active support, Israeli settlers have been attacking and forcibly evicting Palestinian farmers to seize their land and livestock.

Rally with us on Saturday 30th March to protest against this continuing injustice of killing, displacement, and land grab that has been happening for over 75 years.