Saturday, 24 January 2009

Statement of solidarity

We, the occupiers of the Law Faculty of Cambridge, condemn Israel’s action in Gaza; the Israeli blockade of Gaza; and the continued Israeli presence in Gaza and the West Bank. We issue this statement in solidarity with the Palestinian people and international peace movements, in particular those in Israel and Palestine.

We want to express solidarity with all occupying students across the country. We thank those involved in both the continuing and the successfully completed occupations. We have drawn a lot of inspiration from your actions and your demands.

There has not been a student movement in this country, on this scale, for at least a generation. Faced with the deafening silence of our academic community, we felt compelled to act. We embrace this new lease of life for student activism and hope that students in other universities, who feel passionately about this situation, take courage and take action.

Solidarity, gratitude and encouragement from the Cambridge Occupation.


  1. I can assure you that you are not embodying the 60s spirit. Firstly your cause is ill defined. Secondly, as a unit you were not able to agree on any list of aims, displaying the various prejudices which each of your hypocritical organisation harbours. Thirdly and most importantly you have organised your campaign to start at the weekend and finish by Monday morning intended to cause as little disruption as possible and so the majority of students have not even noticed your sit-in. A decision surely taken in order to save the skin of the protesters who are participating.

  2. Hello,

    I have been discussing your recent protest with some people on an email list that I am a member of and I thought I would forward some of my thoughts and questions to this blog. I support the spirit of the protests but I am quite damning of the organisation and apparent lack of planning/forethought but I thought it only fair to give you some opportunity to reply...

    >>> 2. We demand that Cambridge University provide academic aid,
    >>> particularly books, computers and financial support to
    >>> universities in Gaza.

    Does the university really have an excess of these things to donate without comprimising its 'core business'?
    Would it not be more efficient to just give the same amount of money?

    The university may have alot of capital but I imagine that its income and expenditure are pretty finely balanced.. where would the money for this come from? Would students be happy to pay an extra £20, £50 etc. in tuition fees to support this? Or would we accept a drop in spending on teaching, or research?

    If we support academic institutions in Palestine is this endorsing/legitimising the Hamas Government? Will they be able to spend less on education (and possibly more on weapons)?

    >>> 4. We demand that Cambridge University grant a minimum of ten
    >>> scholarships to Palestinian students every year.

    This does sound very much like a demand that 10 Palestinian students must be admitted every year; what if there aren't 10 applicants of neccessary academic standards? Which colleges will be forced to take them? Why not "set up a fund to provide financial support for up to ten Palestinian students"...

    Let's go crazy and stop being divisive... why not have the same provision for Israeli students? Maybe going to university together will help the 'future decision makers' to be more cooperative.

    >>> 5. We demand that Cambridge University and its colleges disinvest
    >>> from the arms trade in cooperation with the existing Cambridge
    >>> (and colleges) Against the Arms Trade movement.
    Whilst I agree with this, is it really that relevant to your protests? This is a big issue and not something that you can just tack in as a footnote to a protest about Israeli actions in Palestine. It's inclusion makes it seem like you aren't even sure what you are protesting about and what you want.

    If your demands are vague and/or unreasonable that makes it alot harder to take you seriously and much easier for people to ridicule you... is it really worth including?

    >>> 6. We demand that no student will face punishment or
    >>> repercussions, legal or otherwise, for participating in this
    >>> demonstration.

    This can't possibly be binding (especially the legal part). Anything committed to under duress is clearly not valid, particularly if the party demanding immunity is committing a crime at the time. If the protest is legal then why the clause. If the matter is so serious why do you need the university to agree not to send you down... have the courage of your convictions! Surely it's better for the cause if the university does try and send students down for a peacful, legal protest - you get lots of press, are likely to rally students to your cause etc... what is the point in this clause?

    Why is the campaign so seeminly lacking in focus and organisation? Reading the blog it seems that when the proctors turned up to find out protestors' demands the protestors didn't actually know what their demands were and it took a debate *until 3am* to work them out... that is comically ridiculous... How are you going to convince the university that they are a serious campaign?

    Also a bit of management studies would come in useful here.. If you are going to have demands make them SMART objectives (If you don't know then Google it), it will make you seem alot more grown up and sensible and less like the "Truth, Justice, Freedom, Reasonably Priced Love, and a Hard-Boiled Egg" school of 'revolutionaries'.

    Whilst it is infinitely better than no protest at all most of the time that you are occupying the Law Faculty you seem to be using your time quite inneffectively... are there PWF computers there? Rather than spending your time 'preaching to the converted', doing music and yoga why aren't you getting protestors on the computers? They could be writing letters and sending emails to MPs, senior university officials, JCR lists, writing blog entries etc... generally getting the message out.

    You haven't even got around to putting details of/links to the relevant humanitarian charities and how to support them on your blog or facebook group?! (despite some condemnation of BBC) But you have had time to do music workshops (disrupting students trying to use the facilities) and Yoga.

    I think that the protests are really great but I am dissapointed that cambridge students seem to be factional, disorganised and amateurish. If we are so clever and care so much can't we do a better job?

  3. AJ, I am not partaking in the occupation given that I am in London, but I am following its progress closely. Some of your suggestions are interesting and, I think, workable. However, you have made them in the wrong forum; the occupation's blog is primarily for publicity and keeping those on the outside informed of progress, as well as for communication with other the occupations. Organisation and the formulation of demands takes place *within* the occupied space and not across a blog. If you are able, why not pay the occupiers a visit - as did a delegation of Israeli students yesterday - and make your points in person? That way, they will be heard and discussed.

    We might here have found a solution to your allegations of disorganisation/lack of planning. Perhaps you are not used to direct democracy in the management studies faculty, but, to me, it seems self-evident that the demands of an occupations must be formulated *by* the occupiers, *during* the occupation. No?

    As regards letter-writing to MPs, etc., the students are but one wing of a much wider movement. There are MPs, Jeremy Corbyn, Gerald Kaufman etc., who do spend their time -actually *in* Parliament - supporting the cause of the Palestinians. Indeed, Sir Kaufman, a British Jewish MP compared the Israeli state to Nazis just the other day, in Parliament. It's on youtube. Watch it: just search 'Gerald Kaufman'. He is a very brave man. The problem with parliamentary democracy is that most of the other MPs don't listen or do anything. That is why the students - at over 15 unis nationwide - are taking direct action. It gestures towards a different form of democracy. The fact that you are, I suspect, not a part of the movement must therefore excuse your ignorance of it.

  4. Owen: "We might here have found a solution to your allegations of disorganisation/lack of planning. Perhaps you are not used to direct democracy in the management studies faculty, but, to me, it seems self-evident that the demands of an occupations must be formulated *by* the occupiers, *during* the occupation. No?"

    No. The occupiers should have thought ahead before they occupied the building as to what their objectives were. If they later decide to change those by democratic vote (or any other process) then that's fair, but surely they had some demands beforehand.

    Did they think of asking the university to do all this before they started the sit in? What about the fact that the uni will need some time to work out where to get these scholarships from, and will itself need to take a vote - it's a democracy, remember. Why not try to get the same case made in a meeting of the Regent House? You should try to work within the system rather than outside it.

    I share many of AJ's feelings on the protest (he's put them better than I could have). I've written to my MP and MEP, both of whom have some ability to do something. To me it seems like the protesters have got too swept up in the romance of doing something to consider the effectiveness of what they are doing.

  5. I think the protestors need to decide on wether they are going to be pragmatic or idealistic.

    If the important aspect of the protest is making the university take some of the actions demanded then a certain level of pragmatism needs to be demonstrated by the protestors.

    Or is upholding the ideals that the protestors have adopted (e.g. direct deomcracy) more important than pragmatic comprimise to work *with* the university to achieve your goals

  6. "No. The occupiers should have thought ahead before they occupied the building as to what their objectives were. If they later decide to change those by democratic vote (or any other process) then that's fair, but surely they had some demands beforehand."

    Of course they thought ahead but it would be undemocratic for a small group of planners to pre-empt the decision of over 100 hundred people and release demands.

  7. How would it be undemocratic? if they said that they were occupying the building with the specific aims listed and invited students who thought that the university should meed those demands to join them then it would be entirely democratic... Students would be 'voting' by turning up and noone would be forcing them to go.

  8. Because that is not how this occupation happened. It was a decision taken by a mass of people at a film showing not a Leninist vanguard of people who announced it and then called for people to join them. There was much discussion at the first instance whether to have one or not so it follows that there needed to be some discussion of the aims. All of these suggestions are fine with the benefit of hindsight but they don't correlate with what actually happened.

  9. Well that is delightfully romantic. It's hardly an effective way of convincing the university that you are a serious organisation committed to meaningful, long term activism and therefore, basically, to be taken seriously. However what's done is done... what lessons can we learn...

    (and the contention that it would be undemocratic - "Leninist" to act in the way that I described above is still wrong)

    Surely you can agree that there is no need to be in occupation of a bulding in order to have a large scale (not that large scale really) democratic decision making process?

    You could have held public meetings in any number of places and/or used the internet as a medium for discussion and voting on the aims of direct action (it can be implemented fairly easily for university members using raven or otherwise by email). ... Let's set one up.

    The most meaningful achievement of this protest will be to convert a spontaneous action into a 'movement'/organisation with the tools to effectively (pragmatically) campaign for specific change on a local level and also take part in larger national activities whilst upholding the priciples of direct action etc.

  10. Perhaps AJ, you are being naive and idealistic if you think that there is not already an ENORMOUS amount of discussion and pontification (that is conducted on email lists, and elsewhere) within Cambridge to absolutely no end whatsoever. This occupation is an attempt to break out of the loop of that closed circle of rhetoric unsupported by action or genuine commitment.

  11. Nineteensixtyseven. I found your posts interesting so decided to check your blogging profile. I wonder whether your interests are representative of supporters of this occupation:
    About Me
    Socialist, student, procrastinator.

    They suggest to me that your reasons for supporting the protest are a distaste of the liberal values which Israel strives to maintain. The fact that as a student you feel the need to seize upon any cause, regardless of its value. Finally, as a 'procrastinator' your desperate wish to avoid returning to reality.