Manchester BDS Activists Call for Divestment from War Crimes

In response to the titular claim of the recent Mancunian article “BDS protests can make Jewish students a target”, we the BDS campaigners emphasise the sole aim of our campaign at the University:

The BDS campaign at the university demands that the university divests £millions of its students’ tuition fees from companies which actively sustain Israel’s illegal occupation, companies such as Caterpillar Inc who have repeatedly been condemned by the UN and numerous international human rights organisations for illegal demolitions of homes, schools, murder of activists, and involvement in the building of illegal settlements in the occupied territories. These investments are in direct contradiction of the University of Manchester’s Socially Responsible Investment policy and the campaign is compelled to demand the University’s adherence to it.

The current situation in Palestine makes our campaign all the more urgent. Since March 2018, the Israeli military has killed over 200 protestors demanding their basic human rights, including innocent women, children, medics and journalists. In the West Bank, Caterpillar bulldozers designed specifically for the Israeli army, have been used in the “Pressure Cooker procedure” (as reported by Who Profits). This procedure operates as follows:

First, the occupation forces surrounding the house use a megaphone or a loudspeaker to order any persons inside to evacuate it immediately. If the persons remain inside the house, the soldiers start shooting at the building first with small arms, continuing with machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades and finally firing tank shells into the house. If the persons survive and still refuse to surrender to the occupation forces, an armored bulldozer or excavator is sent to the scene. The bulldozer initially shakes the house and then starts peeling off the walls of the floor in which the person is located, ultimately destroying the house and burying the victim of the attack beneath it.

We the BDS collective at the University of Manchester are first and foremost a solidarity group and condemn all forms of oppression and racism, including Antisemitism and Islamophobia, just as strongly as we condemn Israel’s human rights abuses against Palestinians, which our university is actively sustaining through the use of its own students’ tuition fees. The need for our campaign would cease to exist when the University ends its complicity in the ongoing war crimes and human rights abuses against Palestinians.

We solely pressure the policy makers and investors at the University who are invested in the occupation by supporting companies such as Caterpillar, not students or societies. In fact, we work alongside concerned students and staff to influence the university to pursue ethical investments.

Our campaign has been active for the past two years with growing support from students and staff on campus, yet the university still continues to invest in these companies. We will amplify our campaign further until the university adheres to its own Socially Responsible Investment Policy, and will continue to strive for freedom, justice, and equality for the Palestinian people.

If you are a student, staff member, or part of the alumni at the University of Manchester, please sign the petition demanding divestment from Caterpillar below:

Manchester University used as a research hub for Israel’s arms trade

A new report produced by the University of Manchester BDS campaign exposes the UoM’s involvement in the arms trade, focusing on graphene and Israel. It uses public sources and a Freedom of Information response, and is fully documented. Here are some key points.



In October 2017, Versarien PLC announced a collaboration agreement with Israel Aerospace Industries to develop graphene-enhanced aerospace composites. IAI is Israel’s state-owned arms company and its biggest supplier of drones, widely deployed over Gaza. IAI agreed to buy Nanene, Versarien’s patented process to produce graphene.

Nanene was jointly developed by the University of Manchester – a pioneering centre for graphene research – the University of Ulster, and Versarien. 85% of the UoM graphene production company 2-D Tech was sold to Versarien in 2014, with the University retaining shares. UoM now also holds shares in Versarien, one of whose Directors is the former head of the Technology Strategy Board (now Innovate UK).

In November 2014, Versarien formed a 50:50 joint venture with Dimar Limited, a leading manufacturer of cutting tools based in Israel, to distribute a new range of tooling for the composites industry. In 2014 the Fimi Group bought 70% of Dimar, becoming the majority owner. Fimi is an Israeli holding group specializing in security. Fimi also invest in IAI’s ImageSat International, which provides “space intelligence to armies, governments and commercial customers to obtain visual intelligence and up-to-date snapshots of the target area”.

Graphene batteries and supercapacitors can be used in drone propulsion. In 2016, Versarien signed a memorandum of understanding with Warwick Manufacturing Group to collaborate on power storage devices, using graphene nanoplatelets.

According to Versarien’s Chief Executive Neil Ricketts, the IAI contract stemmed from a UK Trade & Industry (now the Dept. of International Trade) mission to Israel about 2 years ago. By coincidence or not, in February 2016 the then Minister for Culture Matthew Hancock MP met Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu during a cyber-security trade mission, during which the UK announced policy to prevent local authorities from choosing not to buy goods from Israeli settlements.



The UoM and IAI jointly participate in EU funded projects. AFLONEXT, continuing to 31 May 2018, concerns “flow control technologies for novel aircraft configurations”. UoM’s School of Mechanical, Aerospace and Civil Engineering (MACE), IAI and European arms firms take part.

MULTIPROTECT involved the UoM and IAI, developing protection against corrosion using “smart nanocomposite materials with new nanoparticles”. Other recipients included the Israeli firm SHL-Alubin and the Technion. Alubin supplies Israeli military industries including RAFAEL, El-OP, and Elbit.

Technion is the foremost Israeli university doing military research.


The EU funded project 3AS – Active aeroelastic aircraft structure – involved UoM with European arms firms and Technion. Prof Jonathan E Cooper, then at MACE, suggested that “the first implementations of adaptive aeroelastic structures will be in UAVs” [Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, a.k.a. drones], and mentioned “a current research interest, driven by stealth requirements, in developing flapless UAVs”. NATO published a paper by Prof Cooper funded through 3AS. Flapless UAVs were the subject of a 5 year collaboration FLAVIIR funded by BAE (the world’s 3rd biggest arms firm) and the EPSRC (Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council) involving UoM and 9 other British universities.

UoM Computer Science co-authored research with Bar-Ilan University in Israel on Multiagent Systems. It was partly funded by the US Army Research Office, the US Army Research Laboratory, the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, and a subcontract from DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, part of the US Dept of Defense). Drone swarms can be modelled as multiagent systems.


The UoM participated in the GAMMA programme (Growing Autonomous Systems Mission Management Applications), a partnership involving BAE. The UoM (School of Electronic and Electrical Engineering) supported GAMMA “on every aspect of the sensor and control theme”. One GAMMA sensor project, developed in Liverpool, concerned simulation of “Wide Field of View sensor systems [which] allow persistent, continuous video surveillance of an entire town or city”. The project approximated the specifications of the BAe/DARPA ARGUS-IS sensor, used in MQ-9 Reaper hunter-killer drones deployed by the US and UK for targetted assassination.


Screen Shot 2018-04-29 at 08.49.45.pngThis photo, used but not identified in a GAMMA press release, shows Taranis, a £185m prototype Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle, produced by the MoD with BAE Systems, Rolls-Royce, GE Aviation and QinetiQ.



This EU funded project involved UoM (Chemical Engineering and Analytical Science), the Israeli firm Tracetech Security and the Ministry of Public Security, the Israeli government agency which oversees the Police and Prison Service. It also covers the Border Police, who operate at the Apartheid Wall, oversee house demolitions, repress nonviolent Palestinian demonstrators, arrest and abuse children. SNIFFER concerned the capture and analysis of odours for border security applications, replacing dogs.


The CEO for the National Graphene Institute and Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre is James Baker, who worked at BAE Systems for 16 years. BAE supply Israel with components for F-16s and “smart” artillery shells. The jets were exported by Lockheed Martin, the world’s largest arms firm and an NGI partner along with Thales, which supplies the British Army Watchkeeper drone in a joint venture with the Israeli firm Elbit. Another partner, Qinetiq, is a spinoff from the MoD. The GEIC Advisory Council includes BAE, Thales, and Versarien.


The following demands on the University will form the basis for our joint campaign with Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) – Manchester:

  • The University will refrain from any cooperation in military or security fields with Israeli academic, State or industrial organisations, while Israel continues to defy UN Security Council resolutions and international law including the 4th Geneva Convention.
  • The University will end investment, commercial and research collaboration with Versarien and its subsidiaries, in view of Versarien’s contract with Israel Aerospace Industries, which draws directly on research at the University of Manchester.
  • The University will adopt and implement policies of complete transparency over past, present and future research projects, so that their implications can be considered in full.
  • The University will put no pressure on students to carry out research projects involving the arms industry, and will offer alternatives.
  • The University will commit significant resources to exploring and developing alternative industrial strategies in conjunction with trade unions and relevant experts, to end the University’s reliance on the arms industry and to develop socially useful production.


Entangled – FULL REPORT


Join the ‘Demilitarise Education‘ facebook group to keep updated on the campaign.

Sign the petition to demilitarise education at the University of Manchester.

Send an email to expressing your dismay at the university’s ongoing collaboration with the Israeli arms trade.

For further information, visit the Demilitarise Education website, co-organised by the UoM BDS Campaign and CAAT-Manchester.



Manchester BDS student activists refuse participation in BBC documentary

We, students of the BDS campaign, have refused permission for Lion TV to film us on behalf of BBC for Manchester’s Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW) due to their attempts to incorporate us into a documentary that is not about Israel’s military occupation of Palestine, not about the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people, but specifically for their BBC documentary on 70 years since the creation of Israel.

Despite us declining to be filmed or having any association with the documentary, the producers have persisted in contacting and deceiving our Pro-Palestine allies in an attempt to convince us to partake in a documentary which we believe is searching for a tokenistic representation of Palestinians and BDS student activists, in order to be able to claim their documentary has “balance”. Yet it is clear that the entire premise of the documentary has no balance when the oppressor is placed at the heart of the film and the oppressed – the Palestinians are merely a sideshow. Many of the members of the Palestinian BDS society in Manchester are not even allowed to go to their homeland in Palestine because of the discriminatory policies of the Israeli government.

This documentary is described as a two-part documentary where British Jews explore their religious identity to the state of Israel. To target our Israeli Apartheid week for a documentary on this subject is a massive insult to Palestinians who have suffered, and continue to suffer under Israeli military occupation, the siege and slaughter of civilians in Gaza and the ongoing ethnic cleansing of the indigenous population of Palestine.

So far since the filming has begun, we have learned that the producers have filmed Pro-Israel events across the country which culturally appropriate Palestinian culture, and use it as a weapon to normalise Israel’s war crimes against them.

The producers have contacted and encouraged Pro-Israel students at the University of Manchester to undertake events during our Israeli Apartheid Week such as a planned stall flying the Israeli flag whilst giving out falafel which they claim to be from Israel when evidently it is of Arab heritage. What’s more, the filming for the documentary had already begun on our campus much earlier. On February 7th, the BBC were seen filming a similar stall with an Israeli flag, where Pro-Israel students were giving out Moroccan falafel and claiming it as Israeli.

Not only has this taken place on our campus in Manchester, the film-makers are helping to perpetuate cultural appropriation across the country. For the documentary, they have filmed an ‘Israeli’ hummus festival, co-organised by UJIA, a group which co-actively works with the Israeli embassy, which occurred in Leeds. The premise of this festival was not only to propagate Israeli propaganda, but to normalise the erasure of Palestinian culture which is a political tactic of the Israeli government to aid the physical erasure of the Palestinian people.

The filmmakers are actively magnifying Israeli propaganda and attempting to demean Israeli Apartheid Week. They are working with the people that support the discriminatory system that Israeli Apartheid week is fighting against. This week is dedicated to fighting for Palestinians to have the basic freedoms that every human deserves, denied to them by Israel for coming up to 70 years. It raises awareness of Israel’s well-documented war crimes and furthers the movement for the non-violent tactic of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against the Israeli state until they comply with international law and the basic principles of human rights.

To cover Israeli Apartheid week with the main thrust of the documentary on the 70 year anniversary of Israel’s creation, is yet another example of the BBC’s diminishing of the 70 years of horror Palestinians have faced since the ethnic cleansing of Palestine in 1948. “The Nakba”, which is on record as being pre-meditated by all of the main architects of the Israeli state, was Israel’s violent expulsion of 800,000 Palestinians from their homes – to where the vast majority were never allowed to return. The focus on Israel’s creation is an act of Nakba denial, which is a denial of one of the gravest international crimes in the post-war era and a despicable slur against the Palestinian people.

Our campaign is focused solely on promoting Palestinian human rights and we refuse to participate in a documentary that we believe will only help sustain Israel’s apartheid regime against the Palestinian population at every point of their lives.

We strongly recommend every supporter of the Palestinian justice movement to not participate in this documentary, which has to date perpetuated Israeli propaganda and deceived our allies in an attempt to provide tokenistic balance to what is yet another BBC whitewashing of Israel’s ongoing crimes against the Palestinians.


BDS Triumph Over Sabra On Campus

We are pleased to announce that the University of Manchester has confirmed its removal of Sabra hummus from their campus shop and the guarantee of not stocking Sabra products again, following pressure and campaigning from the Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions (BDS) campaign at University of Manchester. Sabra products on campus will be replaced with Delphi salad pots, an authentic brand of Greek and Mediterranean foods, a complete turn around from the cultural appropriation of Israeli hummus.

Sabra is a US-based company owned jointly by PepsiCo and Strauss Group. Strauss invests in and financially supports the Golani Brigade of the Israeli armed forces, who has carried out merciless human rights violations against Palestinians including arbitrary murders, assaults, incarcerations, evictions, and arrests of children, as well as the use of chemical weapons such as white phosphorus.

We are delighted to hear that the university will no longer be financially supporting human rights violators like the Golani Brigade through their sale of Sabra products. However, the university still holds financial and institutional ties to Israel and its war crimes, which does not comply with their socially responsible investment policy. The university continues to aid Israel’s apartheid regime through its multi-million dollar investments in complicit companies such as Caterpillar, whose specially-modified armed bulldozers are used to demolish homes, schools, olive groves and communities in Palestine.

This triumph is great motivation to continue our campaign which pushes for an end to the university’s compliance in Israel’s war crimes and investments in companies that breach the university’s own ethical investment policy. This success illustrates the power of student activism in working towards an end to ties with Israel’s war crimes and we encourage students at other universities to investigate their institution’s complicity and pursue BDS campaigns to divest from Israel’s apartheid regime.

Take part in the movement and join us at our next protest where we will demand full divestment.


Protest: Jerusalem Not Trump’s to Give Away #ApartheidOffCampus

After the President of the United States of America, Donald Trump, declared his plan for illegally occupied Jerusalem to be recognised as the capital of the occupier, Israel, the students of the University of Manchester and concerned individuals will be protesting and marching on Friday 8th December to condemn this latest act of betrayal against the Palestinian people. At the same time we declare that now is the time for the university to end its shameful support for the institutions and companies who are contributing to Israel’s decades-long military occupation of Palestine and whose activity helps to normalise Israel’s war crimes.
Jerusalem has been the spiritual, social and political centre for an array of cultures and religions for thousands of years. To be recognised as the capital of Israel when it is the Israeli state who have dispossessed hundreds of thousands of Muslim and Christian Palestinian Jerusalemites is a travesty to all those with a connection to city. Worse still that the complicity in the continuous crimes against the Palestinian people also exists on our doorstep, as the University of Manchester invests around £2,114,435.97 worth of shares in the company Caterpillar, which breaks international law, by creating and continuing to supply armed bulldozers with the main purpose being to demolish Palestinian homes, land and public spaces. The same bulldozing company was responsible for killing American activist Rachel Corrie. Caterpillar is in the UN Human Rights Council Blacklisted companies, which is due to be published in Early December. The motion of the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions of Israel has already been passed at the university, but the institution continues to be complicit in Israel’s war crimes, such as selling goods on campus which come from Israel.
BDS UoM (Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions) demands that the university ends all institutional links and investment ties with these war crimes and for the University of Manchester to divest from the companies which oppress the Palestinian population and do not comply with international law. The policies of these Israeli companies are illegal and discriminatory, which go against the university’s own SRIP (Socially Responsible Investment Policy), which states that the institution will “divest in shares in companies which do not respond positively to concerns about their practices or are deemed to be in breach of acceptable standards or ethical practice”.
We call on all concerned individuals to take a stand for the Palestinians, still occupied, still violently forced from their land, and still the victims of the shameful support of western governments, from the Balfour Declaration to the US embassy move to Jerusalem. Join the ‘Hands Off Jerusalem’ protest this Friday evening beginning at University of Manchester from where we will march towards Piccadilly gardens.


Manchester University, Enough is Enough, Divest NOW!

Yesterday saw a coalition of student groups in Manchester coming together to protest on the National Day of Action, simultaneously with many other universities across a range of issues. The coalition of BDS UoM, Campaign Against the Arms Trade, and People and Planet UoM protested outside the board of governors meeting for the University of Manchester to divest completely from fossil fuels and from Caterpillar.

Over ⅓ of universities in the UK (59) have already divested from fossil fuels after student campaigning. However, after 3 years of dedicated activism, the University of Manchester still has not divested the 3.9% of its total endowment fund (£7.6M) from an industry which is a major cause of global climate change. Despite the university openly admitting that divesting from fossil fuels will not harm the institution financially, its failure to provide an adequate response as to why the university has not divested yet has angered students, such as members of Fossil Free, even further.

The university invests around £2,114,435.97 worth of shares in the company Caterpillar, who created and continue to supply armed bulldozers with the main purpose being to demolish Palestinian homes, land and public spaces, breaking international law. The same bulldozing company was responsible for killing American activist Rachel Corrie. Caterpillar is in the UN Human Rights Council Blacklist companies, which is due to be published in Early December. Campaign against the Arms Trade and BDS campaign, along with a growing number of people, demand that the university ends all institutional links and investment ties with these war crimes.

The event was a huge success, joining together students from an array of cultures and backgrounds from different campaigns, demanding the University of Manchester to divest now. The event proved that the institution can no longer act on its own accord, without regard for the tens of thousands of students who pay over £9,000 of tuition fees. Coalitions between groups will continue to grow and stand up until our collective voices are heard and action is taken.

UoM BDS Campaign

UoM People & Planet

Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) Manchester

Unis Resist Border Control

Fight Racism Fight Imperialism! Manchester


A Case for Divestment from Caterpillar

This briefing will detail how investments in Caterpillar contradict the ‘socially responsible’ investment policy of the University of Manchester (UoM), and require the immediate attention of the university in order to create an investment portfolio which is in accordance with their long standing policy.

The University of Manchester “socially responsible” investment policy states:

Environment and Social Governance (ESG) Issues

The University is particularly concerned about the following key ESG issues and will adopt investment strategies that seek to minimise or, ideally, eliminate, irresponsible corporate behaviour leading to:

  • Environmental degradation
  • Armament sales to military regimes
  • Human rights violations
  • The institutionalisation of poverty through discriminatory market practices
  • Racial or sexual discrimination
  • Tobacco production, cultivation and manufacture
  • The exploitation of workers
  • Giving or Receiving of Bribes”


UoM invests approximately £2,113,435.79 in Caterpillar – according to the no. of shares (24900) invested and the share price ($107.49) at the end of Fiscal year 2016. 

Why Caterpillar?

  1. Caterpillar actively supplies the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) with equipment used to commit violations of international law. For example, Caterpillar designs weaponised bulldozers for the IDF which are used for the specific purpose of demolishing Palestinian homes, factories, agricultural land and civilian infrastructure, including water pipes and networks on Palestinian territory assigned by the UN. Despite violating international law, these armoured bulldozers continue to be manufactured and supplied from 1967 to date.
  2. International organisations including the UN, Amnesty International and the International Red Cross have condemned the practice of housing demolitions in Palestine. They form part of a practice of collective punishment for Palestinians, as part of a process of “demographic engineering” to displace Palestinians from regions Israel deems of interest.
  3. The UN Human Rights Council list has included Caterpillar in their Blacklist of companies operating in occupied territories. This list is due to be published in whole in early December.


University of Manchester’s ESG

By knowingly and consistently providing equipment used to enact systematic human rights violations, Caterpillar is complicit in these violations, as a co-actor in Israel’s actions. In doing so, Caterpillar are a company that exhibit corporate behavior that amount to:

  • Human rights violations
  • Racial or sexual discrimination
  • The institutionalisation of poverty through discriminatory market practices. 
  • Armament sales to military regimes


Constructive engagement (a tactic supposedly adopted by the university)

As illustrated, Caterpillar is a company that violates UoM investment policy – UoM should aim to practice the values it projects, and hold itself to that standard – divesting holdings in Caterpillar should be the natural course of action.

Despite being presented with clear evidence that their equipment is used for human rights violations, Caterpillar have been evasive and unwilling to act upon it, thereby making them even more complicit.

In response to a letter from Human Rights Watch demanding that Caterpillar suspend bulldozer sales to Israel, their CEO responded that they did “not have the practical ability or legal right to determine how our products are used after they are sold.”

Elsewhere, when challenged, they responded that “we expect our customers to use our products in environmentally responsible ways and consistent with human rights and the requirements of international humanitarian law.”

These deflections of responsibility, even when confronted by reputed human rights organizations, demonstrate that Caterpillar is unwilling to take action to adhere to its stated values.

It is highly unlikely that attempts to ‘critically engage’ Caterpillar to change their ways will be any more successful than those of Human Rights Watch.

Divesting from Caterpillar sends a clearer signal that they must improve their conduct and adhere by social responsible values, before UoM is able to invest in them again.


– The General Synod of the Church of England divested £2.2million from Caterpillar in 2008, after voting in 2006 to divest from “companies profiting from the illegal occupation [of Palestine].”

– The Presbyterian Church in the USA voted in 2014 to divest from companies whose products Israel uses in the occupied territories to maintain its occupation – including Caterpillar.

  • In early 2017, the city council of Portland, Oregon (USA) voted to divest from corporations, as part of a move to block investment in companies that violate the city’s adopted socially responsible investment policy.
    Caterpillar was specifically cited as one such case as its “practice of selling custom weaponized military equipment and its involvement in human rights controversies, including direct maintenance and support of Israeli military bulldozers during attacks on Palestinian residences, orchards and other property.”


Stories of Palestinians who have had their homes demolished

The Al Sho’bi family: Mahmoud Omar Al Sho’bi is from Nablus in the West Bank. In April 2002, a D9 bulldozer destroyed Mr. Al Sho’bi’s family home without warning in an IDF attack in the middle of the night. His father Umar, his sisters Fatima and Abir, his brother Samir, pregnant sister-in-law Nabila and their three children, ages 4, 7, and 9, were all killed.

The Fayed family: Fathiya Muhammad Sulayman Fayed’s home was bulldozed during an IDF incursion into the Jenin Refugee Camp in 2002. Hundreds of buildings were destroyed allegedly to clear paths for IDF tanks. During the demolition, her son, Jamal, who was paralyzed, needed assistance to get out of the house. While the IDF briefly stopped bulldozing so Fathiya could help Jamal, they quickly resumed demolition. Fathiya escaped, but was unable to get Jamal out, and he was killed.

The Abu Hussein family: A D9 demolished the Abu Hussein family home in the al-Salam neighborhood of Rafah in 2002. Destruction began without warning at 5:00 a.m., injuring six family members inside. After being warned, IDF halted active demolition but fired on neighbors and relatives trying to evacuate those in the house.

The Khalafallah family: In a July 2004 incursion into Khan Yunis Refugee Camp, the IDF demolished over 70 homes. At midnight, a bulldozer approached the home of Ibrahim Khalafallah and his wife Eida, where they lived with their 5 children, 2 daughters-in-law and 4 grandchildren. Ibrahim, in his 70’s and sick, was unable to move. When the bulldozer hit the house, Eida tried to stop the driver, but he continued, destroying the home and killing Ibrahim.

Update: Organisers cancel Balfour Celebrations at the University of Manchester – Protest goes ahead from the University at 5.30pm towards the new location.

The organisers have cancelled the Balfour “celebrations” event at the University of Manchester and relocated to another venue in Manchester. Although this is a great victory for our campaign, the university itself did not cancel it and was from the beginning happy to host this celebration having had communications with the Israeli embassy. There has been increasing conditions imposed on Palestinian student activists and the University’s connections and investments in the Israeli arms trade remain to this day. It was the targeted campaign and pressure from students and concerned individuals that managed to drive the Balfour celebrations off campus. Therefore we will begin the protest at the University of Manchester – Whitworth Hall at 5.30pm and proceed to march to the new location. We ask you to share this and most importantly bring as many people as you can Tuesday 31st October at 5:30pm, Whitworth Hall, Oxford Road, University of Manchester, Oxford Road, M13 9PL


UoM BDS Campaign

Manchester Palestine Action

Manchester Palestine Solidarity Campaign

Manchester Jewish Action for Palestine

Palestinian community in Manchester

Manchester Fight Racism Fight Imperialism!

Alumni letter to Vice-Chancellor of Manchester University, ahead of planned Balfour celebrations

Dear Dame Nancy Rothwell

I write as a graduate of Manchester University (1985-88) and as a British Jew to express my disappointment that the University is willing to hire out its facilities for a celebration to mark the Balfour anniversary this coming Tuesday (31st October) .

I fully appreciate the strong historical connections between Manchester University and the Balfour Declaration through the work of Chaim Weizmann who taught in the Chemistry department at Manchester in the years leading up to Balfour. I’m also aware that the city itself has a strong Zionist tradition typified at the time by support from the Manchester Guardian. So it does not surprise me that an approach was made to hold a significant celebration in the University buildings this week by the Israeli Embassy and the Zionist Federation.

However, the University authorities should also have been aware and mindful that the historical consequences of the Balfour Declaration were a catastrophe for the Palestinian people. In fact Balfour is still not ‘history’ it is very much current affairs. Go to Israel/Palestine today and it is clear to see that Balfour is very much “unfinished business” as an official from the UK’s Mission to the United Nations recently tweeted.

To accept the booking for the event has caused great anger and upset from Palestinian and other Arab students studying in Manchester today, and, as you will know, the news of this has been reported nationally and internationally.

It is too late for you to cancel this booking now and in some ways this has become a good thing. Your action has prompted a counter reaction organised by your own students and Tuesday night will see a demonstration against Balfour which will receive media attention around the world. It will highlight to the British public Britain’s complicity in an on-going tragedy and explain why celebrations of this kind are entirely inappropriate.

As for making some recompense for your original decision to let the event go ahead, I suggest the University organises a conference on Israel/Palestine next year to mark the 70th anniversary of the Palestinian Nakba (‘catastrophe’).

Yours sincerely

Robert Cohen, BA Hons Politics & Philosophy 1988


Open Letter from student societies demanding the University cancel the Balfour ‘celebrations’

Dear Professor Nancy Rothwell

It has come to our attention that the University of Manchester plans to host an event co-organised by the Israeli embassy and the Zionist Federation, to celebrate 100 years since the Balfour Declaration on Tuesday 31st October at 7.30pm. By agreeing to this, is the University oblivious that the event you will be hosting, will celebrate the Declaration that lead to the expulsion of 800,000 Palestinians from their homes and the destruction of over 400 villages during al-Nakba in 1948?

Is the University unaware that the Balfour Declaration ultimately led to massacres of innocent people, and the ongoing illegal occupation of the West Bank and Gaza for 50 years?

This perverse celebration compounds the University of Manchester’s existing institutional and investment links with Israeli institutions complicit in war crimes.

Only a few weeks ago, an investigation by the Guardian exposed how the University censored student-organised Palestinian solidarity events after meeting with the Israeli embassy. Now, news of this event makes clear that the University is more committed to continuing its relationship with the embassy of a repressive state than it is to accountability and duty of care to its own students, faculty and staff.

Britain’s colonial occupation of Palestine since the First World War was not a benign intervention. Not only was it violent and unwelcome, the British 1917 Balfour Declaration was the green light for those seeking an Israeli state to plan for the forced removal of the indigenous Palestinian population. During British rule, Ben Gurion, the future first Israeli Prime Minister, said in 1937 “We must expel the Arabs and take their place”. In 1947-48 this was carried out in a well-planned ethnic cleansing operation that involved mass expulsion, murder and imprisonment, and the destruction of hundreds of villages.

This is now well documented by Israeli historians and soldiers from the time, as well as the Palestinians, many of whom still have the keys to their homes but for decades since have been denied their right to return.

Celebrating the Balfour declaration is a mockery of the suffering of the Palestinian people, and is greatly disrespectful for Palestinian students at the university who have, alongside their families, been forced to live their entire lives under the boot of the Israeli army.  Would you not consider for a second listening to Palestinian students’ experiences as they relay a life of having their university bombed by Israeli F16s, losing university class mates to Israeli snipers or having their whole house demolished to be expelled for not being the desired ethnic group by Israel leaders? This celebration of their loss illustrates the appalling double standards and disdain the University is showing towards Palestinian students and Israel’s abominable treatment of them.

Given that there will be so many at this event who have served in the Israeli army that violently dominates every living moment of Palestinian students’ lives, it is obvious the environment created by this event is unsafe for Palestinian students, many of whom have suffered directly at the hands of the Israeli security services. A large number of students have expressed fear for their safety with Israeli security personnel roaming our campus. By allowing this event to take place and hosting the Israeli embassy, the university is failing to uphold its basic duty of care to staff and students.

The implications are doubly grave both for Palestinians studying now at the University and to the idea that universities should not be a place for celebrating colonialism and racism.

We demand that the University of Manchester cancel the event at the earliest opportunity.

UoM Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Campaign
UoM Action Palestine
UoM Arab Society
UoM Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism!
UoM Sri Lankan Society
BME MCR (the campaign for Black and Minority Ethnic students at the University of Manchester)
UoM Marxist Society
UoM Tamil Society
UoM Islamic Society