British university students protest Israel


LONDON (JTA) – Students at eight British universities staged protests this week against Israel’s actions in the Gaza Strip war.

Students at the London School of Economics ended a week long "occupation" of the institution’s Old Theatre after the LSE director, Sir Howard Davies, issued a joint statement with the student protestors saying he understood their concerns and backing a fundraising drive for scholarships for Palestinians.

Davies, like the heads of other universities, refused to issue an official university statement condemning the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip. 

He agreed to help students organize a fundraising day, and to donate surplus computers and books to institutions in Gaza.  Davies also agreed to waive scholarship application fees for students affected by the conflict, a step which a spokesman for the university emphasized is worded in a way that  makes eligible for assistance students from Gaza as well as from southern towns in Israel.

In the joint statement Davies wrote: "I well understand the concerns felt by many students about the events in Gaza. It is painful to observe the suffering of the civilian population. Like Professor [Rick] Trainor of Universities UK, who speaks for the sector as a whole, I supported calls for an end to the conflict. As he has said, many of the casualties have occurred in educational establishments. Wherever in the world scholars or their institutions are threatened, or their lives are disrupted by conflict, I believe all parties should respect the integrity of scholarship and intellectual and academic freedom, and should work to minimize suffering".

In Oxford, about 80 students occupied for a building of the Bodleian Library for six hours, demanding a university statement condemning Israel’s military action in Gaza, an offer of shcholarships to Palestinian students and the cancellation of  a lecture series at Balliol College inaugurated by Shimon Peres, Israel’s president.

King’s College London rejected a demand from protesters that it rescind an honorary Peres degree received last November.

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