Why we occupied

The following statement was made on the day of the occupation and distributed to members of the academic community at Birmingham.

Tuesday 20th January, 2009
This is intended to be a peaceful non-violent occupation of Arts LR4 by students from the University of Birmingham, not representing any student society or group, acting in solidarity with the population of
Gaza and Palestinian students. We do not intend to cause any damage to university property and have made every effort to minimise disruption to teaching and other activities caused by this occupation.

We are acting in solidarity with the people of Gaza and condemn Israel’s military operation in Gaza, which we consider to be ongoing as long as the Israeli army remain in Gaza. This operation has led to the deaths of over 1200 Palestinians, including over 400 children, and the injuring of over 5000, the majority of which are innocent civilians. Many more bodies may also lie under the ruins. We do not believe that Israel’s military offensive is ’proportionate’ or that it has honoured its obligations under international law to protect civilians. Further, we believe that humanitarian and war crimes may have taken place, including the indiscriminate targetting and killing of civilians, the use of white phosphorous as a weapon, and the obstruction and targetting of emergency medical staff, and wish to see these reports independently investigated and any parties found guilty prosecuted to the fullest extent permitted under international law. We also condemn the destruction of a significant proportion of Gaza’s civilian infrastructure, including hundreds of homes, schools, universities, mosques, hospitals, and UN installations, including warehouses containing aid and medical supplies.

We condemn the firing of thousands of rockets into southern Israel over the past 8 years by Hamas’ military wing and other armed factions within Gaza, which has terrorised the civilian population and killed 3 civilians during the Israeli army’s present operation. However, this does not mean that we do not recognise the right of the Palestinian people to resist the illegal occupation of their homeland, as described in the Geneva conventions relating to the rights of an occupied people. We are acting in solidarity with Palestinian students whose right to education is being denied by the current conflict (both directly and as a consequence of)

a) the killing and injuring of hundreds of students, teachers, and other workers associated with education in Gaza during Israel’s military operation.
b) the deliberate targetting and destruction of university buildings, the destruction of schools, the ministry of education, and other educational infrastructure in Gaza as part of Israel’s military operation.
c) the conditions of the illegal occupation enforced by the Israeli military and supported by the political and military leaders of the state of Israel within the illegally occupied Palestinian territories, which includes deliberate strategies to restrict the movement of students and generally disrupt education within the territories.

We believe recent events are part of an ongoing cycle of oppression and violence which is caused principally by the illegal occupation of the Palestinian territories by the state of Israel. We believe very strongly that to achieve a meaningful and lasting peace and justice for the populations of both Palestine and Israel that the illegal occupation of the Palestinian territories must end. We believe that this should happen immediately.

We are acting in solidarity with students at the London School of Economics, the School of Oriental and African Studies, Essex University, and other university students around the world, who have or are currently occupying areas within their own universities for similar reasons and who called on students in other universities to do the same.

We call on students in other universities, both in the UK and around the world, to occupy in solidarity with those of us who have done so already.

We call on all students, faculty, staff, and alumni of the University of Birmingham to join and provide support to the occupation.