UK's SOAS university 'forcibly removes' students protesting academic partnership with Israel

UK's SOAS university 'forcibly removes' students protesting academic partnership with Israel
3 min read
04 March, 2022
SOAS' Palestine Society have called for an academic boycott, urging the London university to end a partnership with Israel's Haifa University, which provides degrees to the Israeli army.
SOAS students participated in a student occupation of the institutions management wing [SOAS Palestine Society]

The School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) University has forcibly removed students who were occupying university premises in protest over the London-based university's ties with Israel's University of Haifa.

The student demonstration was undertaken on February 23 by a number of societies  - each of whom had been protesting for their own demands to be met by the university - as the protesters occupied the management wing of the university building.

The university's Palestine Society demanded a boycott of Haifa University and for SOAS to cut ties with a "settler-colonial state".

The university confirmed to The New Arab on Friday that "bailiffs removed the protesting [students] from the Main Building without injury or incident", adding that "the [protesters] were given the opportunity to leave of their own accord and 10 were escorted out".

SOAS is currently partnered with Haifa University - which provides academic training to Israeli army personnel - for a year abroad programme, in which students can study Modern Hebrew.

The university's Palestine Society says the partnership is "insulting" to many students, with SOAS "[maintaining] material ties to a settler-colonial state".

"Through the Haifa University contract, not only is SOAS complicit in the settler-colonial and apartheid practices of the Israeli state, but [it] is also actively involved in sending its students to a militarised zone," SOAS Palestine Society said in a statement to The New Arab on Thursday.

"The student occupiers demand that the institution respects the call from Palestinian civil society for BDS by applying this directly to SOAS’ partnership with Haifa University and committing to an academic boycott," the statement continued.

The society's statement also said the university's management "abused students physically and emotionally" during the student occupation, stating protesters had been "refused access to the toilets" unless they agreed to leave.

When The New Arab asked for more details on physical violence mentioned, the society referenced a report from The View Magazinewhich said that student protesters were "dragged... by their neck and by their hoodies".

SOAS University maintained that the protesters had access to food, water and toilet facilities and were "treated without injury or incident".

"SOAS is committed to retaining the Year Abroad as part of the Hebrew pathway, and decisions on this matter are taken on academic considerations," the university statement said. "The Directors Group have sought to meet with the Students' Union and the Palestine Society on this question."

The University of Haifa was awarded in 2018 the first ever tender established by Israel's ministry of defence, allowing it to be the first college to grant degrees to Israeli military officers.