Oxford and Cambridge University students have established pro-Palestinian encampments on campus lawns.

They were initiated outside King’s College in Cambridge and the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford. The “liberated zone encampment” at Oxford University comprises tents erected on damp ground, with numerous protestors wading through mud for teachings on Palestine and “well-being circles.”.

“Come rain or shine, we will free Palestine,” they chant. There’s a food tent serving hot meals, a medical site for emergencies, and workshops for arts and crafts.

Kendall Gardner, a Jewish student at the university, said she was “really inspired by the events that have been unfolding across the world.” “The US initiated a global chain of student activism for Palestine,” she said. “We have six demands for this protest – the primary one being the closure of all university-wide financial assets benefiting Israel. We will remain here until those demands are met. I brought a large bag; I have everything a girl could need.”

Ms. Gardner stated that protesters had “every intention of maintaining peace.” “I am actually Jewish, and I have never felt safer on campus than I have with this community of people,” she said. “The last few months have been particularly challenging for me personally. I am horrified by what is being done in my name, and it has been so reassuring for my community members – most of whom are Arab, Muslim, and Palestinian – to assert that my culture has nothing to do with what has been occurring in Gaza.”

An Oxford University spokesperson stated: “We are aware of the ongoing demonstration by members of our university community. We respect our students’ and staff members’ right to freedom of expression through peaceful protests. We urge everyone participating to do so with respect, courtesy, and empathy. Oxford University’s primary concern is the health and safety of the university community and minimizing any impact on work, research, and learning, including student exams. As we have emphasised in our communications with students and staff, there is no room for intolerance at the University of Oxford.”

Many students across the UK have begun to gather in protest against the war in Gaza, with encampments established in cities including Manchester, Newcastle, Bristol, and Leeds. In addition to the encampment that began on Monday, pro-Palestinian students had already disrupted open days at the University of Cambridge in recent days. Demonstrators informed prospective undergraduates and their families that they would be “complicit in Israel’s genocide” in Gaza if they applied to Trinity College.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has denied allegations of his country committing genocide, stating that the case brought to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) earlier this year was “outrageous.” He pledged to continue the military action that began after the Hamas attack on 7 October. “We will continue to do what is necessary to defend our country and our people,” Mr. Netanyahu said following an ICJ ruling compelling Israel to take all measures within its power to prevent genocide. “Like every country, Israel has an inherent right to defend itself.”

In response to Monday’s demonstrations, the University of Cambridge stated it was “fully committed to academic freedom and freedom of speech within the law” and acknowledged the “right to protest.” “We ask everyone in our community to treat each other with understanding and empathy,” it said. “Our priority is the safety of all staff and students. We will not tolerate antisemitism, Islamophobia, or any other form of racial or religious hatred, or other unlawful activity.”

The wave of university protests in the UK follows a series of violent clashes at campuses across the US, most notably at Columbia University in New York. Protest groups in the UK have urged their universities to divest from Israel in response to its military operation in Gaza. This would entail selling off stock in Israeli companies or otherwise severing financial ties. Encampments have also been established in recent days in France, Ireland, and Finland.

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