Oxford Action for Palestine Responds to the University’s Open Letter Threatening Court Action if Students Do Not Disband

28 June 2024

Late Thursday afternoon, on Day 265 of israel's genocidal assault against the people of Palestine, the University of Oxford Registrar and Senior Proctor issued an open letter to students at the OA4P Gaza solidarity encampment threatening us with a court order to vacate our liberated zone.

This threat comes days after Administration caged in our Solidarity Encampment at the Pitt Rivers Museum and destroyed our Gaza Memorial Garden, desecrated symbolic graves, and removed artwork honouring Palestinian martyrs. In the midst of this fencing-in, members of OA4P were threatened with disciplinary action and had limited access to bathroom facilities. Now, the University turns its attention towards our Liberated Zone at the Radcliffe Camera.

This series of repressive acts from the University mirrors concerning trends of repression across the country, and runs in direct contrast to Admin's stated desire for good-faith dialogue. From QMUL to Birmingham to Cardiff, universities are taking legal action against and sanctioning brutal police violence on their students. Given the University's stated commitment to an ongoing good-faith dialogue with OA4P, Oxford cannot follow this pattern of repression. While we welcome the University's commitments to investment review and to offering digital materials to students and academics in Gaza, these commitments are not enough to meet the concerns of the University community and the urgent demands of the Palestinian people.

Our encampments exist because of the University's investment and institutional relationships in genocide. Any insinuation that the onus for disruption of the status quo lies on us is an attempt to distract from the University's responsibility to act. But no amount of legal and disciplinary action can turn the world's attention away from the horror of israel's violence. As we write, israel is attacking refugee camps, murdering healthcare workers, and arresting children in the West Bank. This week israel forced tens of thousands of Palestinians to evacuate Shujaiya neighbourhood in Gaza, issuing displacement orders after IOF forces began bombing the area.

Concerningly, the University has anchored its notice to vacate in a rhetoric of concern for the health, wellbeing, and safety of students and property. But for 54 days, the University's neglect of our wellbeing has drawn sharp criticism from a global audience. OA4P members have been threatened by knife-wielding agitators; physically and verbally harassed by right-wing extremists; kicked by University security services; and brutalised, shoved, thrown, and arrested by police called on us by our own Administration, who continues to use fearmongering language to demonise its own students. Any intention to close our encampment in the name of 'public safety' devoid of this broader context is insincere, and demonstrates a thinly veiled attempt to sidestep accountability for its role in creating an unsafe environment for students, faculty, staff and the wider Oxford community.

The University argues that the end of the academic year ought to mark the end of our encampment. But israeli genocide, occupation, and apartheid does not stop on account of the University's timeline - and neither will our movement, which stands stronger than ever. In the past 54 days, 29 college common rooms have passed motions in support of our encampment and its demands; over 670 faculty members and $3,000+$ students have signed onto letters in support of the camp. Numerous student societies, trade unions, elected officials, the UCU, and community groups have all issued their own statements of support for our movement, and they continue to join us for protests, vigils, and community events.

This weekend, students from across the UK and Ireland will join us for a cross-university solidarity weekend as we collectively work to resist nationwide repression and stand for Palestinian liberation. The events schedule can be found on our social media. Join us and make clear to the University that our movement always has extended far beyond their repressive logics - and we will not be deterred.