On Tuesday 13 January a group of School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) students began their occupancy in the Brunei Gallery where the Ministry of Defence(MOD) were holding an exhibition. A list of demands was requested to be met by the university management before the occupancy would retreat. This included the exclusive access of the gallery for the students to use throughout the year the banning of all military on campus, pending prior consultation with the students union. This is currently a controversial topic of debate for various unions at present, including Sussex. All of these demands have now been met and the protests ended peacefully on Wednesday 14th January.
This victory has inspired and encouraged other renowned universities such as LSE, Kings College London, Essex and University of Sussex to begin their own occupancies in solidarity with the people of Gaza, and these institutions are also issuing their own demands which are to be met by university management before they are to end their occupancy. These include boycotting of Israeli goods, an official statement to be issued by the university condemning Israeli atrocities against Gaza and resources sent to Universities in Gaza as well as fully paid scholarships for a certain number of students whose university has been bombed by the Israelis.
The LSE which is “founded on the Fabian values that were the precursor of the human rights agenda of modern politics” took control of their main lecture on Thursday 15 January theatre stating that “LSE must restate those values and condemn state criminality. It is not a matter of politics, it is a matter of humanity.” In response to their requests, their director Howard Davies has said that the school “will not take a position on the conflict” and that ‘the school has sent a formal response to those demands.” Mr. Davies was pressed by Pro-Palestinian protesters to release a statement to “Defend Gaza- Condemn Israeli massacre’ by surrounding him during his recent interview on SKY television.
Some political figures – such as Tony Benn, the president of Stop the War Coalition, John Rose of ‘The Myths of Zionism’, George Galloway and Tariq Ali – have also spoken at these universities about the Israel/Palestine conflict. Sussex’s Gaza talk, took place Tuesday 20 January despite it being against the wishes of the management.
Its guest speakers included Mark from the student occupation at the LSE and Dr Azzam Tamimi, a controversial speaker from the Muslim association of Britain and Stop the War Coalition.