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St Andrews Students Occupy Building to Protest Uni's Complicity With Israel | 18.02.2009 14:57 | University Occupations for Gaza | Education | World

Over 60 students from St. Andrews have occupied Lower College Hall after a petition demanding that the University cut ties with Israeli contractors and institute an aid and scholarship programme was handed to the Principal.

The Occupation Begins
The Occupation Begins

Decisions are made by consensus
Decisions are made by consensus

Said James H. Morris, a first-year Divinity student, "We will be here for as long as it takes for the University to accept the demands in the petition. We are protesting our university's complicity with global injustice." The petition, which has been signed by over 500 students and 30 lecturers in just 4 days, has already received support from members of the student network People & Planet, the Scottish Palestinian Solidarity Campaign and many others while the occupation itself has been lauded by several key members of the University administration. In this, St. Andrews University joins 23(1) other Universities, including Glasgow and Edinburgh, across the UK which have seen mass student demonstrations, sit-ins and occupations urging their institutions to condemn the Israeli incursion into Gaza.

Roddy Shippin, a fourth-year English student, assured onlookers that the demonstration was peaceful in nature, "Unlike the Israeli occupation of Gaza, which has killed almost 6,300 people, this occupation is completely nonviolent and we will be happy to leave as soon as the demands of the student population have been met."

Miranda Myrberg, a third-year International Relations student, said, "This is not about being anti-Israeli or pro-Palestinian; this is about being pro-human and taking our moral responsibility to eliminate human suffering without regard for race, gender, religion or nationality." Patrick O'Hare, a second-year anthropology student, added "We do not see this as a black-and-white issue."

Lukas Ross, the SRC(2) Member for Ethnic Minorities, said this about the occupation, "It’s very important that everyone knows this occupation is to protest the actions of Israeli army, or more generally the actions of the State of Israel and is not in any way anti-Semitic. As a Jew myself I feel that our ethical tradition is incompatible with the Israeli occupation".

Student campaigners are making five key demands:
Firstly, they are calling on the University to immediately suspends its contract with Telephone Eden Springs, the Israeli water company which illegally bottles water from the Golan Heights, part of the Occupied Territories.
Secondly, that the University review its links with BAE Systems, which provide arms and equipment to the Israeli Defence Force, as well as other links to the Israeli military(3).
Thirdly, that a scholarship programme is put in place committed to funding 10 scholarships for Palestinian students.
Fourthly that the University broadcast the Disaster Emergency Committee (DEC) campaign to raise money for the reconstruction of Gaza on campus.
Finally, to pledge to donate unused equipment and non-monetary aid to the reconstruction of Palestinian universities.

The Israeli incursion into Gaza began on 27th December and has killed over 1,300 civilians(4) and made over 100,000 people homeless(5). Said Iain Nicol a fourth-year Mathematics student, "Israel has been targeted by 65 UN Resolutions and continues to breach international court rulings in its construction of an apartheid-style wall. Israel's blockade has severely affected the humanitarian crisis and the ability of Palestinians to see their basic human needs met".

Notes for Editors:
Photographs available upon request
1) Including the Universities of Birmingham, Bradford, Cambridge, Edinburgh, Essex, Glasgow, Goldsmiths, King’s College, Leeds, LSE, Manchester, Manchester Met, Nottingham, Oxford, Queen Mary, Rochester, Sheffield Hallam, SOAS, Strathclyde, Sussex, UEA, and Warwick. The most recent, Edinburgh, ended successfully the evening of the 16th.
2) Student Representative Committee, St. Andrews' University Student's Association
3) This measure has already been supported, in part, by the University Court which in 2006 passed an Ethical Investment policy pledging to disinvest from companies being targeted by these campaigns. Nevertheless, the University still main research contracts with these companies.
4) Source: Al Jazeera
5) Source: Palestinian Solidarity Campaig
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