A view down Oxford Road towards Manchester University owned buildings. A view down Oxford Road towards Manchester University owned buildings. Source: citysuitesimages-wikicommons / cropped from original / shared under license CC BY 2.0

Lucy Nichols interviews a member of The Manchester Camp of Resistance for Palestine about the encampment’s demands and their hopes for the movement

Why have you set up this encampment? What are your demands? What are you asking from the University of Manchester specifically?

We have set up this encampment as part of a global escalation in solidarity with the Palestinian resistance, following the spark lit by the American student movement’s response to extreme violence at the hands of the police. Our demands are the following:

  • Cut all ties with BAE Systems
  • Cut all ties with ‘Tel Aviv’ University and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem
  • Implement an ethical research policy
  • No disciplinary action against students involved in protests

The University of Manchester holds extensive ties with companies and institutions directly complicit in the genocide and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians. It holds a £822,000 contract with BAE Systems, the producer of 15% of each F-35 fighter jet currently bombing people, homes, hospitals and universities in Gaza.

The university also holds partnerships with two Israeli academic institutions, Tel Aviv University and The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, built on the ruins of displaced Palestinian villages, and established to allow Israel’s settler-colonial agenda on the land of Palestine. It is inside the walls of these institutions where many murderous products and doctrines have been invented to destroy Palestinian lives. The Tel Aviv University is home to the manufacturers of the Dahiya Doctrine, the use of ‘disproportionate force’ to destroy civilian infrastructure. University students are currently providing new weaponry for the use of the Israeli army in Gaza. The Hebrew University of Jerusalem has a long history of involvement in military research, and provides army intelligence training, as well as surveilling Palestinians living in the surrounding neighbourhoods of occupied Jerusalem.

We, students of the University of Manchester, have set up camp on Brunswick Park, The Manchester Camp of Resistance for Palestine, demanding the university: end its partnership with BAE Systems; end ties with Israeli academic institutions; adopt a policy ensuring all research is ethical and does not contribute towards the arms trade; and refrain from taking any disciplinary action against students.

We are committed to having the university cut these deadly ties, and we will always be committed to the Palestinian people and their struggle for justice, and for a liberated Palestine from the river to the sea.

The student movement has mobilised in a huge way around Palestine, and this is perhaps the biggest mobilisation of students since the rent-strike movement in 2020. Why do you think this is?

Our generation has decided that we will not tolerate our government’s involvement in the Zionist genocide in Palestine. There is no love lost between the youth and the British state, and its brazen support for Zionism has become emblematic of the gulf that exists between our ‘leaders’ and the people. Just as the resistance against the American genocide in Vietnam rallied young people into a powerful social movement in the 1960s, the Palestinian resistance will have the same effect for our generation. Our escalation against the University of Manchester represents the culmination of years of commitment to radical campus organising – we would not be here now without the efforts of all the people who have come before us. At this moment anything is possible, how far we get is now up to us.

UoM has a history of cracking down on student protests in extreme ways: last year it brought disciplinary action against eleven students for taking part in occupations and this year it has suspended a student for protest on campus. The university has also called the police on its own students a number of times. Is this something you are worried about?

As our American comrades have shown, the correct response to repression is resistance. Our comrades on this island are currently imprisoned and facing trial for taking direct action against Elbit Systems, the largest private arms manufacturer of the Zionist entity. This makes us fight even harder. Allowing ourselves to be intimidated is not an option; we are fighting for an end to the genocide of the Palestinian people. We have to organise against repression, and the best defence is building a mass base of support. As such, this forms a core pillar of our movement’s strategy.

As the martyr Basel Al-Araj said, to wear a keffiyeh means you are fighter. We would be failing in our duty and our love for the Palestinian people and their resistance if we were unable to see this struggle through to the end. We will win; this encampment and others like it are transmitting this steadfast hope for Palestine all across the globe.

What kind of reaction has the University community had so far (if it isn’t too early to say)? How have the UCU reacted?

The reaction of the university community has been overwhelmingly positive so far, and we have had lots of people come to join the camp. We have an abundance of tents and sleeping bags for everyone to get involved, so please come and join if you can make it! We will be holding workshops all throughout the camp to build up our movement – there is a place for everyone, no matter how big or small. The UCU has given incredible solidarity to the encampment, and has provided us with a lot of crucial infrastructure.

How can the wider Palestine movement show solidarity with your encampment?

Come down and talk, eat and share food with us, join the encampment, contribute to the work. Most importantly, never waver, never lose hope that within our lifetimes the world will be free from colonialism and genocide, and that we will see a liberated Palestine from the river to the sea.

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