No Rest Till They Divest

The Justice for Palestine Society is untiring in its effort to rid Edinburgh University of investments that fund the genocide in Gaza.

At approximately 12:30 pm on the 5th of May we, the Justice for Palestine society at the University of Edinburgh, led a storm-in of the Old College quad, a notorious setting in the history of Palestine’s colonisation. We swiftly established an encampment on its historically untouched lawn, protesting the university’s institutional complicity in Israel’s genocide of Gaza.

Our encampment is a part of the global student movement urging academic institutions to disclose and divest. As with other university encampments across the globe, the significance of this student action lies in its effect on our education, re-education, and reform of our campuses, student body, and administration’s financial decisions. While encampments at Columbia in the US and Trinity in Ireland have honoured Gaza by naming buildings and libraries after six-year-old martyr Hind Rajab and martyred poet Refaat El Areer, we have chosen to underscore our university’s history by branding it Balfour University, slandering its continued colonial legacy.

Balfour University

The college’s historic walls whisper ongoing histories of colonial violence and are tainted by the portrait of the bigoted and antisemitic white supremacist, Arthur Balfour, who advocated the colonisation of Palestine while he was Chancellor of the university in 1917. While this fact has been intentionally unacknowledged by Balfour University’s administration thus far, it is the driving force of our decision to liberate this specific location, on which he founded the wider colonial Zionist project which was instituted in Britain by the Balfour Declaration.

While Balfour University attempts to weaponise the Jewish faith against our actions for justice, labelling them antisemitic, our own anti-Zionist Jewish student group, Edinburgh University Kehillah, represents the opposite. It is our university’s continued colonial legacy, power-hungry corrupt leaders, and war crime investments which represent institutional Zionism and thus antisemitism. Our encampment action must be understood as part of a collective fight for justice that unites all against the fascist, capitalist, Zionist enemy, as we demand divestment.

When one enters the Old College lawn, they are initially welcomed by our encampment’s Walid al-Daqqa library, named after the political prisoner and martyr. Whereas Balfour University administration attempts to boast its superficial and selective projects of inclusion, diversity, and ‘decoloniality’, the strength of our movement stems from our collective commitment to the Palestinian cause. We have consolidated a campus presence that truly represents, protects, educates, and acts in the anti-colonial interests of the student body and general public. We deem our cultivation of such a space essential in enabling our university to cease its investments, holdings, and corporate complicity in Israel’s corrupt action against Palestine. Unfortunately, an aggravated assault by an outsider on one student camper took place on the 9th of May and surrounding university security who surveil us twenty-four-seven stood by and witnessed it without any involvement. How can we feel protected when our administration not only demonises our actions but also does not protect its students from physical assault?

As in the case of student action and encampments globally, our actions have been met with inadequate responses by Balfour University’s administration. Regardless of geographic location, the Zionist entity has exposed its operation through academic institutions whose irresponsible investments shamefully implicate their students in these corrupt acts, necessitating our unified course of escalated action across the globe. We act as one. Our encampments represent a unified rejection of our universities’ corporate complicity in the ongoing terrorist Zionist project. Just as these complicit universities form one guilty Zionist entity, our student encampments form one movement in favour of Palestinian liberation. This begins with our effort to force the university to act in line with its Responsible Investment Policy and make a wider institutional, moral, and financial commitment to divest.

Twenty-two students in Edinburgh have undertaken a hunger strike in solidarity with Gaza and in protest against Balfour University’s inefficient, incompetent, and unstable responses to our straightforward demands. The administration has stated no more than its “concern” for these students, perpetuating its unproductive rhetoric which initially necessitated this escalated action. Edinburgh students’ action has inspired a hunger strike by students at Maastricht University, again proving the interconnectedness of the student fight for the Palestinian cause, in pursuit of ridding our universities of investments that fund the genocide of Gaza.

Our university is perfectly capable of committing to our demands and, most importantly, executing immediate and complete divestment from Israeli armaments, just as it immediately divested from Russian bodies in 2022. We demand that our university commits to the following: (i) an academic boycott, (ii) the reduction of policing on campus, (iii) the open denouncement of its colonial ties, (iv) combating antisemitism through the removal of the IHRA definition, (v) financial reparations, (vi) scholarship grants to Gazan students (as with Ukrainian students), and (vii) hosting no students who have served in the Israeli Occupation Forces.

We will not rest until Balfour University divests.

Edinburgh University Justice for Palestine Society is a platform dedicated to raising awareness and educating on the Palestinian struggle around Edinburgh University.