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Monday, February 16, 2009

Mission Accomplished

Cynic that I am, I never really imagined that the University of Edinburgh students who have been occupying one of the main lecture theatres, and demanding various actions from the university authorities in support of the people of Gaza, would achieve all their aims. Some, certainly, but not all.

Well, I was wrong, and I'm delighted to admit it. What an example for the rest of us: five days of peaceful, non-confrontational occupation, while the business of teaching carried on around them, and with practically no press attention, achieved results which no number of resolutions at the university senate could have managed, and demonstrated eloquently that the fire has not gone out of student politics.

Here's their final press statement:

Edinburgh University Student Occupation for Gaza - Final Press Release

At 8:45 on the morning of Monday 16/02/2009 the student occupation of George Square Lecture Theatre will come to an end.

We, the occupying students have secured the following…
• A complete end to Eden Springs bottled water on campus by the start of the next academic year (2009/10).
• An opportunity to bring our case regarding the university’s unethical investments directly to the University Court.
• Scholarships for 5 Palestinian students in Gaza to study at Edinburgh University, with consideration for fee waivers, reduced accommodation fees, travel allowances and visa support.
• A collaboration between the university management, student body and an NGO to collect various materials for shipping to Gaza and to fundraise for the implementation of this.
• A lecture and debate series, involving university staff and guest speakers, on various subjects relating to the Palestine/Israel conflict. There has already been interest in this from prominent scholars Ilan Pappe and Noam Chomsky.

We feel that this is only the beginning of the movement to end the university’s role in the occupation and oppression of Palestine by the Israeli government and military. There remain serious issues to which the university’s response was completely inadequate, including the active role of arms and defence companies in university research and on-campus recruitment.

The occupation also provided a place to stage educational events, encouraging active engagement and participation about the issues in question. Highlights included a discussion on the ongoing occupation of Palestine, with the participation of the President of Scottish Jews for a Just Peace and a workshop on ‘direct action’ with ways of defusing confrontational situations. As the week progressed, we at times numbered over 60 students, with a total of several hundred passing through the theatre doors.

We feel it’s important to emphasize that the student occupation should be understood not simply as a tactic or a bargaining chip in getting our demands. Within the space that we took control of, we used consensus decision making to initiate a radically non-hierarchical way of making collective decisions. At its best, the occupation provided a space for a process far more democratic than what conventional university structures are able to achieve. The changes we want to see will be attained through our direct action but also by creating such spaces, and expanding them indefinitely.

Two key outcomes of the occupation…
• A planned open forum for reflection and discussion on the student occupation and the university’s reaction in the context of the Gaza conflict.
• An online network to consolidate the occupation group, welcome all who wish to be involved in future action and to take the movement forward immediately and effectively.

We would like to extend a huge thank you to the countless groups and individuals who provided us with material and moral support.

Lastly, we wish to assure Palestinians of Gaza and the West Bank that we will struggle alongside them in solidarity until such time as they are a free and sovereign people.

We will continue posting information here and will soon release details of our new online networt, website and mailing list for information on future direct action for this cause.

This is only the beginning!

Or as Jed Bartlett put it in The West Wing (series 2, I think) : "What's next?"


At 17 February, 2009 21:15, Blogger Z said...

Respect and maturity shown all round then. Refreshing.


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