Don’t Punish Protest – Open Letter to the University of Manchester


Dear Dame Nancy and Dr Redmond,

Two of our students from the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) Movement are facing disciplinary hearings this week (29th March) due to carrying out a banner drop on the Samuel Alexander building which read ‘Stop Arming Israel’.

This action occurred on March 2nd as part of the activities of Israeli Apartheid Week. The students drew attention to the University of Manchester’s contravention of its own Policy for Socially Responsible Investment in investing in companies such as Caterpillar, who supply armoured bulldozers for the Israel Defence Forces, vehicles used to raze Palestinian homes in the occupied territories, and in collaborating with Technion Institute of Technology, leaders in the research and development of hi-tech weaponry for the IDF.

Such investments and collaborations by the University lend credibility and infrastructural support to Israel’s occupation, a regime ‘sustained by the same three pillars of apartheid that were once maintained in South Africa: the designation of a racialized identity with preferential legal status (whites in South Africa, Jews in Israel and the occupied territories); the fragmentation of territory for the purposes of segregation and domination; and the maintenance of “security” laws directed against one population (blacks, Palestinians) for the protection of the racially privileged group’ (Saree Makdisi, ‘Architectures of Erasure’, Critical Inquiry, 2010). Indeed, as Makdisi continues, the structure of apartheid is even more complete in the occupied territories, for its function here is not to control, circulate, and exploit black labour within society, but to separate, contain, and remove Palestinians in the onward expansion of Israel’s land-grab.

The University should applaud these two students for drawing attention to the hypocrisy of abetting Israel’s apartheid regime while professing a socially responsible investment policy. Instead, we see with dismay that they are to be subject to disciplinary hearings.

We the undersigned members of the academic community at the University of Manchester appeal to you in the strongest terms: 1) to withdraw completely the threat to discipline these students; 2) to make swift moves to divest the University from firms that abet the apartheid regime of Israel; and 3) to meet the University’s obligation to respond to the two Freedom of Information requests by the BDS Movement (due on 3rd and 7th April) to present publicly the full extent of the University’s financial involvement with companies who invest in Israel.

Yours sincerely,

Manchester UCU Executive Committee

UNISON, University of Manchester

Professor Claire Alexander

Dr David Alderson

Zahra Alijah

Professor Mona Baker (Emerita)

Dr Naomi Baker

Dr Lauren Banko

Dermot Barr

Dr Anke Bernau

Dr Howard Booth

Professor Erica Burman

Dr Bridget Byrne

Dr Niall Carson

Dr Tanzil Chowdhury

Emma Clarke

Dr Michelle Coghlan

Alessandro Columbu

Dr Steven Courtney

Dr Jerome de Groot

Professor Laura Doan

Professor Mike Donmall

Professor Jeanette Edwards

Professor Aneez Esmail

Dr Douglas Field

Gaelle Flower

Dr Molly Geidel

Dr Kevin Gillan

Leah Gilman

Professor Hal Gladfelder

Dr Ingrid Hanson

Dr Ben Harker

Dr Bethan Harries

Professor Penelope Harvey

Dr Malcolm Hicks (retired)

Dr Jenny Hughes

Dr Andrew Irving

Professor Tim Jacoby

Dr Stef Jansen

Dr Andrew Jones

Dr Steven Jones

Paul Kelemen, Honorary Research Fellow

Frances Leviston

Dr Camilla Lewis

John McAuliffe

Dr Peter McMylor

Professor Roseanne McNamee (retired)

Narinder Mann

Professor Miguel Martinez Lucio

Dr Stefania Marino

Dr Orieb Masadeh-Tate

Professor David Matthews

Dr Vanessa May

Dr Robert Meckin

Lydia Merryll

Dr Dalia Mostafa

Professor Khalid Nadvi

Dr Adel Nasser

Dr Richie Nimmo

Dr Michelle Obeid

Dr Adam Ozanne

Professor Ian Parker, Honorary Professorial Research Fellow

Dr Monica Pearl

Professor Luis Perez-Gonzalez

Dr Floriane Place-Verghnes

Dr Eithne Quinn

Dr Madeleine Reeves

Professor Dee Reynolds

Professor Chris Roberts (Emeritus)

Dr John Roache

Dr Emily Rohrbach

Dr Michael Sanders

Kate Sapin

Dr Fred Schurink

Dr Tony Simpson

Dr Graham Smith

Dr Robert Spencer

Professor Jackie Stacey

Dr Ingrid Storm

Dr Nicholas Thoburn

Dr Petra Tjitske Kalshoven

Dr Angela Torresan

Dr William Turner

Dr Anastasia Valassopoulos

Dr Sivamohan Valluvan

Dr Bram Vanhoutte

Professor Peter Wade

Dr Chika Watanabe

Dr Dan Welch

Professor Janet Wolff (Emerita)

Dr Luke Yates