More than 30 universities across the UK on Monday faced calls from their students to divest from apartheid Israel.
In an effort to mark the International Day of Solidarity with Palestine, a National Day of Solidarity on Campus was organised by pro-Palestinian NGO FOA, who launched a campaign for students to write to their Vice-Chancellors demanding that they divest from companies complicit in the oppression of Palestinians.
Citing the Human Rights Watch (HRW) report that says Israel is committing the crimes of apartheid and persecution against Palestinians, students at LSE, Nottingham, Birmingham, Plymouth, Glasgow, and others demanded their institutions withdraw investment from companies complicit in human rights abuses in occupied Palestine, particularly Rolls-Royce PLC, Hewlett Packard (HP), BAE Systems and Booking.com.
“Rolls-Royce manufactures parts of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighters used by Israel to attack civilians in Gaza, and HP provides the technology for the control systems in Israel’s checkpoints, which violate Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” FOA said in a statement.
Ismail Patel, chair of FOA, has stated that “divestment (the withdrawal of investment) is an important, non-violent method to pressure a company to change its ways. When a university withdraws investment, it sends a powerful message to that company that the university community does not approve of its actions. Students have a huge amount of power here to hold their institutions responsible.”
Hannaa, studying English and History at Queen Mary University says “as students, we find our institution’s complicity in human rights abuses appalling. We do not pay our tuition fees for the university to invest in companies complicit in apartheid. We call on the Vice-Chancellor to take immediate action.”
The FOA statement said UK universities currently have £450 million ($598.7 million) in investments which are “complicit in Israeli apartheid”.
In 2020, the University of Manchester divested more than £10 million ($13 million) from companies complicit in Israel’s occupation of Palestine following years of campaigning by human rights groups. Companies affected include Caterpillar, a long-standing supplier of heavy machinery used to demolish Palestinian homes and infrastructure by the Israeli army.