Protests on UK campuses fail to mobilise same support as US counterparts

Small encampments have appeared at a number of British universities


Pro-Palestinian encampment on the lawn of the Kings College, University of Cambridge (Photo: social media)

Anti-Israel protests at UK universities spread this week, with encampments or building occupations on campuses at Cambridge, Oxford, UCL, Liverpool, Soas, Bristol, Newcastle, Warwick, Sheffield, Leeds, Swansea, Edinburgh and Goldsmiths.

The encampments grew larger over the bank holiday weekend, echoing some of the scenes that have recently come out of US college campuses.

Students marched through Cambridge today to deliver a letter of demands to the university’s Vice Chancellors and shout "shame," while a manifesto at Oxford allegedly demanded protesters call for the collapse of Israel before they joined the encampment.

According to the Telegraph, anyone wanting to join the encampment outside the Oxford University Museum of Natural History is being told they must be “committed to upholding the Thawabit”, a set of demands laid down by the Palestinian Liberation Organisation in the 1970s.

The Thawabit states “the right of colonised people to resist against occupation". It demands the right of return for six million Palestinians to the homes they or their ancestors allegedly owned in Israel in 1948 and calls for Jerusalem to be recognised as the “capital of Palestine”.

Some Oxford protesters were sprayed with water overnight when college sprinklers were turned on where they camped on the lawn. Protesters are said to have requested they be turned off on future nights.

In London, protesters at UCL refused to speak to the JC without their “media relations manager”, while students based at the encampment at Soas did not wish to share their demands with this newspaper.

On social media, a video of a Soas protester addressing the encampment via a megaphone listed their demands which included calling for the university to divest from companies “complicit in Israel’s genocide”, including Accenture, Microsoft and Barclays. The student called on Soas to “Boycott all Israeli academic institutions which are complicit in the genocidal campaign in Gaza,” and “Cut ties with the University of Haifa.”

The protester went on to call for Soas to “End the targeted repression of Palestinian solidarity activism on campus.” They also demanded that Soas work to “Rebuild Gaza’s destroyed schools and universities” and increase scholarships for Palestinian students.

Protesters across campuses have resisted questions from some news and media outlets but welcomed others.

At Oxford, a protestor called a reporter from The Sun “scum” as he tried to enter the encampment, while another journalist from the Daily Mail was escorted out on Monday after trying to interview protesters, according to the Telegraph.

Many of the students protesting at their institutions are in the final weeks of the academic year. One security officer at a London university said the year would soon be over and students would leave campus.

The university employee said additional security had been stationed around the campus and tourists were no longer allowed to walk into the historical building.

On Saturday, a man was arrested in the vicinity of a Gaza encampment at a London university on suspicion of a public order offence, after he was seen to spit towards a pro-Israel counter-protest.

In response to the swelling protests, the Prime Minister opened today's Cabinet meeting by saying there had been an “unacceptable rise in antisemitism on our university campuses” and vice-chancellors would be meeting to discuss “the need for our universities to be safe for our Jewish students”, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said.

The PM has summoned vice-chancellors to a meeting this week to discuss antisemitism on campuses and to ensure Jewish students' safety.

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