Encampments show spread of solidarity with Gaza

The spread of student encampments for Palestine around the world has been an inspiration for all those fighting to end Israel’s genocidal slaughter in Gaza.

Starting at Columbia University in New York, the camps have spread like wildfire—more than 120 in the US, 25 in the UK, with others in France, Spain, Canada, Turkey, Tunisia, Mexico, Holland, Ireland, Bangladesh, India, Cuba, Germany, Italy, South Korea, Egypt and Switzerland.

In Australia, the first camp was launched at the University of Sydney, followed by the University of Melbourne. Others have sprung up at La Trobe, Monash, RMIT, Deakin, ANU, the University of Adelaide, the University of Queensland, Curtin, Newcastle and elsewhere.

Students are demanding that their administrations reveal their links with Israel and end them. At Sydney Uni the main target has been the weapons company Thales; at Melbourne Uni it is the weapons company Lockheed Martin.

The movement has rattled the ruling class, already on the back foot because of the horror in Gaza and the growth of the global solidarity movement.

They have responded with a wave of slurs—that the camps are violent, that they make Jewish students unsafe and that the protests are part of a wave of antisemitism.

President Joe Biden warned of a “ferocious surge of antisemitism in America”. Prime Minister Anthony Albanese says the antisemitism is the worst he has seen.

This is a desperate attempt to imply standing with Palestine is racist towards Jews. Yet many anti-Zionist Jews have been involved in running encampments or speaking at teach-ins and rallies.


Meanwhile it has been supporters of Israel, members of the far right and the police who have been responsible for violent incidents.

In the US, state authorities have used force to intimidate or break up camps. At Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, police used tasers and tear gas on protesters. At Indiana University, students spotted a police sniper on a roof overlooking their protest area.

In Los Angeles, campus police stood back as a mob of Trump supporters, including members of the far right Proud Boys, attacked the camp at UCLA. The next day police used stun grenades against the students.

In response, university staff have responded heroically. About 200 academics at UCLA walked out of classes in solidarity with student protesters.

In New York, some 200 Columbia and Barnard University staff members staged a walkout in protest at police brutality.

In Britain, more than 500 staff at Oxford University have signed a statement supporting a student encampment demanding, “that the university divest from Israel’s genocide in Gaza, as well as from Israel’s ongoing apartheid regime against Palestinians and its settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem”.

In Melbourne, Israel supporters have harassed encampments, especially at Monash University. Administrations have demanded an end to the camps at Deakin and ANU. Victorian top cop Shane Patton urged universities to act against the camps.

The best way to defend the encampments is to involve more students and to use the camps as bases for escalating the movement, including where possible occupations of university buildings.

Students also need to win solidarity from workers. In Sydney, the weekly rally for Palestine marched to join the encampment at Sydney Uni. At Melbourne Uni, a call-out by the university workers’ union, the NTEU, saw 500 rally at the encampment. Speakers included the Victorian divisional secretary.

The encampments are an exciting and important initiative and have given hope to Palestinians and their supporters around the world. But they cannot be an end in themselves.

As Students Against War in Sydney put it, “Our fight doesn’t stop at the uni gates. Student protest must connect up with workers’ action.

“We would need to see mass strikes, mass disruption and industrial bans by unions to make Israel a pariah state and make it impossible for Albanese to continue supporting genocide.”

Student direct action has lit a spark—now activists need to spread the fire into our workplaces and unions.

By David Glanz


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