Fobzu-Student union officers' statement in defence of the Right to Education

On Wednesday 7th March in the mid-afternoon, armed IDF units in civilian clothing forced their way onto Birzeit University campus. One unit detained university security guards, confiscated their weapons and began firing on students and university staff. As documented by video footage, undercover IDF operatives posing as student journalists launched an assault on the President of the Student Council, Omar Kiswani, outside the Council buildings. He was violently attacked before being abducted from the university.

Birzeit and other Palestinian universities are a pillar of Palestinian educational, cultural and civic life, raising a new generation to contribute to Palestine’s future. The storming of Birzeit University and abduction of the Student Council President is the most recent example of Israel’s long term and systematic assault on the Palestinian right to education, which targets the learning, development and hope of a whole generation.

Palestinian schools and universities have been subjected to targeted military offensives, demolition and raids. Students and teachers face arrest, harassment and restrictions on movement. And today, Palestinian higher education suffers international isolation and fragmentation as a result of the illegal blockade of Gaza, the separation Wall and the occupation’s system of division and control.

The Right to Education campaign at Birzeit reports a rise in arrests of students since the beginning of 2018 and today over 60 Birzeit students are detained in Israeli jails. For those of us who are student representatives and members of student unions in the UK, we are deeply disturbed by Israel’s criminalization of student associations and the practice of harassing and detaining student council members and leaders – undermining key institutions of Palestinian democracy and civic life.

The protection of Palestinian institutions of learning under occupation, and those who work and study in them is guaranteed in international humanitarian and human rights law. Today Palestinian academic freedom and the right to education is violated by an occupation in its sixth decade that acts with impunity.

We, Friends of Birzeit University and student union officers in the UK, believe that we have a duty to take a stand against injustice and oppression. We stand in solidarity with Palestinian students denied their right to education and support their demands to live and study in an environment free from the violent practices of Israel’s occupation. We will continue to work to demonstrate to Palestinian students that they are not alone in the struggle for their rights and call for the education community and students in the UK to join us. In addition, we call on the UK government to end its complicit silence on Israel’s violations of the Palestinian right to education and hold Israel accountable for its violations of Palestinian rights.

 

Signed by:

Ali Milani, Vice President, NUS
Rachel O’Brien, Disabled Students’ Officer, NUS
Yinbo Yu, International Students Officer, NUS
Jess Bradley, Trans Officer, NUS
Hareem Ghani, Women’s Officer, NUS
Ilyas Nagdee, Black Students Officer, NUS
Nia Nash, National Executive Committee, NUS
Aliya Yule, National Executive Committee, NUS
Beth Douglas, LGBT+ Officer (Women’s Place), NUS
Sarah Gilborn, Postgraduate Research Representative, NUS
Hope Worsdale, President, Warwick Students’ Union
Eva Crossan Jory, President, Goldsmiths Students’ Union
Mohamed Onar, Vice President, Union of Brunel Students
Farheen Ahmed, Vice President – Welfare & Equal Opportunities, Oxford University Student Union
Malek Arab, Vice President – Education, City Students’ Union
Tom Barringer, Vice President (Charities and Community), Oxford University Student Union
Martha Krish, Education Officer, Cambridge University Students’ Union
Rahma Hussein, Vice President for Activities and Development, King’s College London
Mark Crawford, Postgraduate Students’ Officer, Students’ Union UCL
Riddi Viswanathan, Diversity Officer, University of Manchester Students’ Union
Neha Shah, Chair - Campaign for Racial Awareness and Equality, Oxford University Student Union
Mason Ammar, Undergraduate Education Officer, University of Bristol Students’ Union
Azza Abdulla, Education Officer, University of Leicester Students’ Union
Sarah Al-Aride, Education Officer, Students’ Union UCL
Davey Silver, Education Officer, Sheffield Hallam Students’ Union
Phill Dowler, Vice President (Surrey), University for the Creative Arts Students’ Union
Shubham Singh, Postgraduate Education Officer, University of Bristol Students’ Union
Stuart McMillan, Education Officer, Sheffield Students’ Union
Sarah Lasoye, National Executive Committee (Women’s Place)
Mariam Al-aride, NUS Delegate, St George’s University
Ayo Olatunji, BME Officer, Students’ Union UCL
Tara Mariwany, Welfare & Diversity Officer, Goldsmiths Students’ Union
Lola Olufemi, Women’s Officer, Cambridge University Students’ Union
Mohammed Abdulredha, Welfare and Community, Sheffield Hallam Student’s Union