In Scotland this week, the Senate of Stirling University Studentsâ Association (SUSA) passed a resolution expressing solidarity with Palestinian universities and students and supporting Palestiniansâ inalienable right to education in the face of âthe illegal Israeli occupation of Palestine, the illegal wall and illegal settlementsâ. The resolution, which was brought by SUSA after pressure from the Stirling Palestine Solidarity Campaign, will result in the strengthening of ties between SUSA and student bodies at Palestineâs Birzeit University. Activists hope that such actions can help pave the way for the eventual boycott of Apartheid Israelâs academic institutions.
The SUSA motion endorses the Right to Education Campaign in support of Palestinian students. As well as formally condemning the Occupation as a whole, SUSA specifically noted the constraints that the Occupation has brought upon students at Palestinian centres of learning such as Birzeit, where many students have been arrested and charged simply for being associated with their Student Union. As the Senate discussed the motion, there are currently 107 students from Birzeit University alone held in Occupation prisons and detention centres.
The Occupationâs systematic obstruction of Palestinian education has denied entire generations their right to education through closures of schools and universities throughout the West Bank. Over the last five years, eight Palestinian universities and some 300 schools have been shelled, shot at or raided by the Occupation. Arbitrary roadblocks and checkpoints, as well as closures, frequently harass students and teachers and deny access to their place of education.
In a letter to SUSA immediately before the Senate meeting, the Right to Education Campaign concluded, âThere can be no academic freedom – or any other kind of freedom – without an end to the occupation.â
Ultimately SUSA hopes that Stirling and Birzeit universities will enter into a twinning agreement and pursue a relationship of academic exchange that will lead to greater links between British and Palestinian schools and universities. A member of SUSA welcomed the Senateâs decision, saying, âHopefully we can provide proper support to our fellow students in Palestine and bring about justice to the Palestinian people.â
Gordon Clubb, a spokesman for the Stirling Palestine Solidarity Campaign, also welcomed the Senateâs decision and urged other organisations and trade unions – in Stirling and elsewhere in Scotland – to follow the universityâs action and enter into partnerships with Palestinian organisations.
The SUSA motion is an important step within the boycott and divestment campaign against Apartheid Israel. Earlier this year, British academics launched one of the most high-profile academic boycott campaigns yet, when the Association of University Teachers (AUT) voted to boycott the Occupationâs Haifa and Bar-Ilan universities. As well as condemning and weakening the Occupation regime, boycott actions offer concrete signs of support and solidarity with the Palestinian people and importantly counteract those calls for âco-operationâ between oppressed and oppressing institutions and academic bodies that ultimately serve to preserve the status quo and legitimise the Occupation. Although subsequently overturned, the AUT motion brought unprecedented public support and awareness for the campaign for complete boycott, divestment and sanctions against the Apartheid state â measures which can effectively bring international pressure for an end to the Occupation and justice for Palestine.
Action such as that by the students of Stirling University has again added momentum to the academic boycott and shown that student bodies â as well as teachers and academic institutions themselves â have a vital role to play in the struggle against the racist Occupation.