Sheffield students protest university complicity in Israeli occupation
The University of Sheffield and Sheffield Hallam University are staging protests to mark a day of action on Wednesday to protest what they describe as complicity in sustaining the Israeli occupation through maintaining ties with companies on the Boycott Divestment Sanctions list.
The Divest, Disarm and Decolonise Demonstration will protest the universities' ties with companies such as BAE Systems, Hewlett Packard, Caterpillar, Volvo Trucks, Boeing and Rolls Royce.
"Most Palestinian students, including myself, feel alienated to learn that our universities have links with arms companies profiting from ongoing Israeli crimes against our people. Israel has been bombing, killing, maiming, expelling, dispossessing and imprisoning the Palestinian people before the whole world, with impunity and without accountability”, activist Shahd Abusalma told The New Arab.
Participators say they plan to march from University of Sheffield Student Union to the Sheffield Hallam Student Union, passing through Sheffield Town Hall using banners and chanting to raise awareness for their cause.
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For activists, it’s important to stretch the protest outside of their universities to raise as much awareness for Israel’s human rights abuses, which co-operations across the world fund and support, hoping locals become aware of the ties between local institutions and the Israeli occupation.
“This is a human rights issue that must concern everybody. At times the situation in Palestine seem very grim, such mobilisations, organised by students and academics from different ethno-religious backgrounds, offer hope that someday, Palestine will have its South-African moment, Shahd said, adding “Israeli apartheid will fall and freedom, justice and equality will be served in Palestine”.
Sheffield’s day of action is coinciding with Israel Apartheid Week, a week in which the global BDS movement promotes peaceful action against Israel to to raise awareness for the situation in Palestine.
"This protest demonstrates the support for the divest and decolonise movement on campus. We demand that our universities end their complicity in social and environmental injustices across the world", Sorcha Fletcher, a student at University of Sheffield said.
"Our money shouldn’t be used to fund human suffering and we must resist the unjust systems of exploitation and oppression" she added.
The nonviolent BDS movement says it is inspired by the campaign that targeted South Africa's apartheid regime and is seeking an end to Israel's brutal occupation.
Companies that both universities in Sheffield are complicit in dealing with have harmed Palestinians in various ways.
Caterpillar is notorious for selling equipment to the Israeli army that is used to flatten Palestinian homes across the West Bank and Gaza, including during the 2002 massacre of Jenin which left at least 52 Palestinians dead.
Sheffield Hallam University also has ties with Volvo Trucks, another company that continues to sell bulldozers to Israel used for the same purpose despite photo and video evidence showcasing the demolition of Palestinian homes.
Meanwhile, Israel sees BDS as a strategic threat and accuses it of anti-Semitism - a claim activists firmly deny, calling it an attempt to discredit them.
But the movement, which adheres to peaceful resistance, aims to pressure Israel to adhere to international law and human rights by lobbying various states, institutions and personas to understand its oppression of Palestinians and take action as a result.
BDS operates by pressuring corporations, artists and academic institutions to sever ties with Israel with supporters saying activities are aimed at promoting a Palestinian statehood.
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