Oxford exams cancelled after building occupied by anti-Israel activists

A Jewish student has said he now feels ‘uncomfortable’ wearing a kippah at the university


Oxford insist the occupation 'plainly goes beyond the bounds of acceptable protest' (Photo: Laurel Chor/Getty Images)

Oxford University has cancelled end-of-year exams for some students after anti-Israel protestors occupied the building where they were due to be held.

Student activists have established a 24-hour encampment in the city for several months while calling on their university to divest from Israel.

Oxford Action for Palestine (OA4P), who have organised much of the protest action, have further demanded that Oxford ends all institutional relationships with Israeli universities, including exchange programmes, conferences and joint academic projects.

The occupation of the university’s Examination Schools building, however, was launched by an unaffiliated group of demonstrators.

The “autonomous” organisation, OA4P claim, have renamed one wing of the site to Dahshan School, in honour of academic Saeed Dahshan, who was reportedly killed in an Israeli airstrike.

“The protesters have made it clear that their action was unaffiliated with OA4P and was undertaken without OA4P's knowledge,” the group said in a statement on Thursday.

“The support for Palestine on this campus extends far beyond OA4P.

“The urgency expressed by this action is a reflection of the mounting frustration that has been felt by countless in the University community, who for months have urged Oxford's administration to act against Israel's ongoing and catastrophic genocide in Gaza.”

According to the student newspaper Cherwell, around six protestors have been spotted inside Examination Schools carrying Palestinian flags and hanging exam papers from the windows.

One initial group are said to have stayed in the building overnight, while a second group of around 20 with masks and backpacks tried to enter later.

The gates to the building have now been locked.

Speaking on LBC on Friday, a Jewish student said the protests left him feeling “uncomfortable” wearing a kippah in Oxford.

Harry Hatwell, who is studying for a Masters in law at St John’s, said he felt “especially” insecure when near the university’s Palestine encampment.

He had heard protesters chanting that they would shut the university down were their demands not met, he claimed, and had heard one non-student demonstrator insist that “Zionists” should go back to America.

One of his friends, Hatwell continued, was walking past the encampment one night while wearing a kippah when he stopped to talk to a friend.

A college security guard told him to move on because his presence was “provocative”.

Oxford University say they have put contingency plans in place to prevent as much disruption as possible to students’ exams.

A spokesperson said: "It is unclear who the occupying group are representing, as they claim to be acting without the knowledge of the Oxford Action for Palestine (OA4P) encampments."

They condemned the "absolutely unacceptable disruption caused to our students".

"While the university supports the right to peaceful protest within the law and our rules, this action plainly goes beyond the bounds of acceptable protest,” they said.

Thames Valley Police have been contacted for comment.

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