Rhodes Scholars for Palestine Stand in Solidarity With OA4P

31 May 2024

It has been 76 years since the start of the nakba and 235 days since the start of israel’s genocide in Gaza. We, Rhodes Scholars for Palestine, still find ourselves relentlessly yet painfully writing these statements of solidarity and calling our academic institutions into action.

Today, we write as Rhodes Scholars and Oxford students to assert our unequivocal support for the Oxford Action for Palestine (OA4P) Coalition, its demands, and its encampments. After nearly four weeks of campus-wide support for OA4P from students, faculty, staff, and community members, the University Administration still claims the Coalition has not been “transparent” about its interests. We are proud to join the thousands of students and dozens of student organisations across the University standing steadfast with OA4P and insisting the University end its enabling of israeli genocide, occupation, and settler-colonialism.

In November of 2023, the Rhodes Scholars for Palestine released an open letter titled “Legacy at Crossroads: The Rhodes Trust’s Imperative to Act for Justice in Palestine”, urgently calling on the Rhodes Trust to act under four main demands. In this letter, we lamented the grim colonial legacy of the Rhodes Scholarship and the Trust and stressed the links between the colonisation, ethnic cleansing, and histories of injustice in Palestine and southern Africa — the latter of which Cecil Rhodes largely orchestrated, and the former of which was spearheaded by his compatriots, including by one of the scholarship’s founding trustees Alfred Milner. We addressed our moral imperative to act as Rhodes Scholars and underscored the Trust’s imperative to meaningfully confront the irreparable harms which built the Rhodes Scholarship.

Today, we find Rhodes alumni among those orchestrating the genocide in Gaza. This includes Jake Sullivan, a current National Security Advisor of the United States. Jake Sullivan reports directly to President Biden who continues to materially and rhetorically support israel’s genocide in Gaza with impunity. With a sober understanding of our responsibility, we continue to call on the Rhodes Trust to address and reject israel’s violence in Palestine, including its long-standing settler-colonial regime and apartheid system, as well as its ongoing brutal genocide in Gaza.

We have continued organising for Palestinian liberation relentlessly since that letter, and we reiterate that we stand steadfast, committed, and unwaveringly with the global student intifada. We furthermore completely back the coalition and encampment’s demands to divest from and boycott israel’s criminal regime, end its complicity in scholasticide, and repair the injustices it perpetuates through a commitment to Palestinian-led rebuilding of education in Gaza.

The response we have witnessed from the University of Oxford towards the encampments and the coalition’s organised action, and especially from Vice Chancellor Irene Tracey, has been nothing short of disappointing and harrowing. Just last Thursday, the 23rd of May, Vice Chancellor Tracey called the police on her own students, who arrested 17 members of the coalition who had organised a peaceful sit-in inside the University’s Administrative Offices on Wellington Square. Over 30 police vehicles with dozens of police officers and K-9 units (police dogs) showed up to the scene where a peaceful protest was building up right outside of the Wellington building in support of the students at the sit-in. Outside, hundreds protested and were brutalised at the hands of the Thames Valley Police, called on by Vice Chancellor Tracey. Shamefully, the administration has decided not to drop charges on those arrested, in light of which the administration’s most recent statements endorsing Oxford students’ right to peaceful protest ring hollow.

In support of the OA4P coalition, we strongly condemn the response of the university and of Vice Chancellor Irene Tracey. We condemn her cowardly decision to refuse to negotiate with protestors and instead call the police on and arrest her own students. We condemn the Vice Chancellor for choosing to spread dangerous misinformation about the nature of the OA4P encampments and the aims of the coalition. We recognize with urgency how the Vice Chancellor’s regrettable leadership places the encampment at increased risk of violence, with the encampment having faced multiple incidents of vitriolic harassment in the past four weeks.

To Vice Chancellor Tracey: This line of action (or rather inaction) is unforgivable. The gravity of your silence intensifies with every passing second. We stand in full solidarity with OA4P and urgently call on you to agree to enter negotiations with the coalition and to stand alongside your students in unequivocal solidarity with Palestine and the Palestinian people against israeli apartheid, settler-colonialism, and genocide.

Rhodes Scholars for Palestine