Saturday, 31 January 2009

Some final messages of support...

"Congratulations to everyone involved in the occupation for the pathbreaking way in which you have conceived, organised, sustained, publicised and achieved such positive results from this campaign. I am proud to be part of a University that has such students." - Andrew Chitty, Department of Philosophy

"Good to see a positive end to it - great going, guys, let's hope this does give rise to a new movement of student activism! It's certainly an exciting time to be working at Sussex."

- Jon Mason



"Congratulations on having made an important statement and obliged an institution to face a cultural prejudice. Would that our media were free enough to report your and other student-body actions and achievements to those who have little or no clarity about the long suffering of Palestinian peoples." - Louis Loizou




"Respect is due for all your hard work. Please do not let the struggle die. We must turn Sussex into a non-militarist campus by protesting the international security agenda. This movement has proved that only united and organised students have the chance of making this a reality!" - Alana Lentin, Sociology Department

"I just wanted to say that I'm really happy to see that there is a new breed of fine activists at Sussex doing interesting, creative, engaging and innovative campaigns and events to support the Palestinian people.


I was Comms a while back and a staunch Palestine supporter during my whole time at Sussex. It really is great to see what you guys have been up to and in using blogs, facebook and gmail to communicate your activities I feel like I've been with you.


A huge congratulations for all that you have done and, I'm sure, will continue to do."

- Alexandra Molano

















"You speak for the millions of young people throughout the world who are sick and tired of war and injustice, who simply desire a world in which the young grow up not knowing what it is like to kill and maim.You are an inspiration to us all and we wish you every success and call upon all those who want a more peaceful world to support your action." UCU NEC members (p/c)


















Friday, 30 January 2009

Nottingham under siege

Nottingham have just had all of their power cut off except the lights and been asked to leave on pain of disciplinary action by the Director of Student Operations and Support. The students have been warned that ‘no dialogue will take place whilst this room is occupied’. Please send statements of support to occupationnottingham@googlemail.com and complaints to vice-chancellor David Greenaway and director of student operations and support Stephen Dudderidge.

The Next Steps...

Loads of people turned up for the strategy meeting this afternoon showing that even though the occupation has officially ended and our demands have been met, nothing's over yet.

We've decided to set up several temporary working groups to plan new events, strengthen our national links, and to make sure that the university follows through on its promises. Everyone's welcome to get involved, even if you weren't previously a part of the occupation:

Boycott & Divestment
- Meeting Friday 12pm Room 126 Falmer House - Contact Raz (campaigns@ussu.sussex.ac.uk)

Education & Events - Next meeting Monday 10am Falmer Common Room - Contact Josh (joshua.c.j@gmail.com)

National Liaison
(working together with other occupations) - Contact Chas (sussexnational@gmail.com)

Publicity - Contact Alex (abcs20@sussex.ac.uk)

Scholarships & Surplus Supplies - Contact Harriet

The next weekly organisational meeting will be this coming Tuesday in FH126 at 6:00.

We also heard back from Lee (Finance Officer, USSU) and Laura (President, USSU), who told us how the Union is working hard to hold the Uni management to account for its promises. Lee said that the best thing we as students can do is campaign hard - and that it's the Union's job to represent its students, so we need to get on to our fellow students and raise awareness of the situation in Palestine and Israel, and our role in it. At the same time, both Laura and Lee agreed that the research of our group will still prove invaluable in holding the Uni to account.

Next week is Palestine week and there's a whole schedule of events planned:

Monday - Street Theatre - Library Square, 11-2
We'll be setting up a noisy checkpoint in Library Square and asking everyone to show their ID. We have some volunteers for flyering and being friendly, but need lots of soldiers. We also need volunteer detainees.

Interested? Email Josh and come to the rehearsal meeting in Falmer Common Room, 10am. If you can only come for an hour or two during the day, that's fine - just send Josh an email.

Tuesday - PALESTINE: Exhibition and Talks - Mandela Hall, 9-5
We still need lots more people to be invited to the facebook event, so go to it now and get your friends to come - go, go! We also need volunteer porters, to help people and be responsible for safety - email Josh to come and volunteer a few hours of your day.

Thursday - The Palestine Monologues - Arts A 103, 7pm The best thing you can do is turn up - it's going to be a really special performance by talented friends. Bring your housemates (and maybe tissues).

Friday - Film screening: Occupation 101 - EDB 121, 4pm A really challenging but informative film that introduces the history of the creation of 'Israel' and 'Palestine' and goes right up to the present day. Followed by relaxed discussion and nibbles.

Facebook events will follow - make sure you're in the Sussex Palestine Initiative group and that you let all your friends know about them too. They will be grateful to have been invited to something that does not involve pirates or pub crawls!

Update on national occupations

Here is an update on the status of the student occupations still ongoing around the UK:

King's College London are now in their 10th day of occupation making it the longest-running univesity so far. Good progress has been made in negotiations, however the university is still refusing to revoke the honorary doctorate awarded to Shimon Perres. Today a march is scheduled to the principal's office to hand in a petition showing support for this demand.

Warwick ended their occupation yesterday after 9 days after the univesity sent word that they are "prepared to come to the table (with our SU mediating) and discuss where to go from here (with respect to sending aid, ethical investment, etc.)"

Nottingham and Queen Mary's are now in their 3rd day of occupation and gathering strength and support.

Cambridge ended their occupation yesterday after shameful intimidatory tactics culminating in a court injunction from their university management. They gained some concessions and tremendous student and local support. They say "we have raised awareness and wish to build a significant student campaign off of this".

Sheffield Hallam are now in their 3rd day of occupation. So far the management have been uncooperative, refusing to enter into negotiations and threatening police eviction. Support and advice is welcomed.

Leeds are now in their 9th day of occupation and are busy in negotiations with their management.


There is an organisational meeting for all those involved or who wish to be involved in the Sussex occupation in order to strategise and decide how best to take things forward at 2pm in FH126.

Thursday, 29 January 2009

Shame on the Cambridge University management!

The Cambridge University occupation in solidarity with Gaza have been having a tough time of it, with their university administration using such devious and intimidatory tactics as photographing occupants and recording their details (multiple times!), throwing away occupants' food supplies, stop-and-searches of staff and students to ensure that no food gets through (on "health and safety" grounds!), issuing legal threats, giving impossible time-frames for negotiations, preventing students from joining the protests and telling students that they would not be allowed to re-enter the occupation after they had already left. Yesterday visiting speaker Craig Murray was prevented from entering the building and had to address occupants and gathered crowds from within a ring of university officials acting like a police kettle. Cambridge students have explicitly stated their commitment to a peaceful occupation and to the non-disruption of their fellow students from the outset. Many staff and students and even politicians have expressed their outrage and support. The occupation says "Cambridge University claims to be stand for values of freedom of expression, and these worrying actions prove this claim false and set a dangerous precedent for future student activists." This kind of authoritarian harassment and siege from the University of Cambridge is unacceptable, hypocritical, disruptive to other students, and generally does them huge discredit. Please use the template on the right hand side of this page to send a letter of disgust (or write your own) to the vice-chancellor at v-c@admin.cam.ac.uk.

Final speaker session today 5pm and party!

Please come along to Mandela hall today for our final speaker session and rally at 5pm.

Jeremy Corbyn; a labour MP and anti-war activist. "Since 2005 he has defied the whip 148 times, making him by far the most rebellious Labour MP."

A member of the International Solidarity Movement will talk about their work and experiences on the ground in Palestine.

Sussex students and members of the recent delegation to Palestine will talk about the Brighton-Tubas twinning initiative, including their plans for the next delegation over to Sussex from Tubas and how you can get involved.

We will also hear from members of the occupation and the student union, who will talk about how it all went and our next steps, and there will be the opportunity to ask questions.

This will be followed by an open-mic session and celebratory party in Falmer bar!

There are still lots of jobs to get done today: please check the gmail account for a list of them and sign up.

Nottingham university occupied!

Solidarity to Nottingham university who yesterday became the latest to join the UK wave of occupations.

They say the following:

"A group of students has peacefully occupied Room B63 Law and Social
Sciences this evening in solidarity with the people of Gaza. This
occupation is the 17th in the U.K since the New Year.

We will not lift the occupation until our demands have been met. The
demands are currently being finalised and include a statement from the
university and the providing of aid and scholarships to Palestinian
students in Gaza.

We are asking anyone who empathises with our cause to come down and
join the demonstration.

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Statement from the university

This statement seems to have been removed from the university's website so the link previously provided no longer works. This statement includes the final version of the agreement.

Student sit-in protest ends

A protest and sit-in in the Asa Briggs lecture theatre ended peacefully last night (Tuesday 27 January), when the students involved agreed to a final statement which the University had presented earlier in the week in response to their original demands.

In common with other leading UK universities, a number of students at Sussex had been protesting at the events taking place in Gaza, staging a peaceful sit-in on campus in the Asa Briggs lecture theatre (formerly A2), since Tuesday 20 January.

The University entered into immediate discussions with the students, seeking to bring about a speedy resolution, in the interests of the whole University community. The conduct of the students had been peaceful and orderly and they had indicated their intention not to disrupt teaching within A2. However, their continued presence in the lecture theatre over a long period of time was proving to be increasingly problematic for lecturers and other students and complaints had been received from both students and staff.

The University made clear throughout that the situation in Gaza is something of international concern and that all universities will be saddened by the fact that civilian casualties have occurred in educational establishments. The University of Sussex also made clear it concurred with the call made by the President of Universities UK, Professor Rick Trainor, for an end to conflict in and beyond Gaza.

A full and detailed statement had been developed by the University in discussion with the students, in response to the six demands which the students presented. That statement –which is set out below in full – represents a positive response by the University to all the points made by the students, in particular through:

· confirming its ethical investment policy and reviewing its operation;
· seeking to create new scholarships for students from all areas affected by conflict or catastrophe, including Palestine;
· working with the students' union (USSU) and other UK HEIs to pass surplus educational materials to universities in Palestine.
Detailed discussion involving USSU on how these are to be taken forward will follow, now that the action has ended.
The Vice-Chancellor, Professor Michael Farthing, has also said that the University, working with the students’ union, will now wish to look at these events and review how such matters are handled , so that the University can learn lessons from what has happened, in the interests of the whole Sussex community.
28 January 2009

--------------------------------
STATEMENT FROM THE UNIVERSITY OF SUSSEX

The Occupation Group of students and the Vice-Chancellor of the University, Professor Michael Farthing, are pleased to announce that the occupation of Lecture Theatre A2 in protest at Israeli military action in Gaza and in solidarity with the Palestinian people, ended at 23.00 hours on Tuesday 27 January, by mutual consent.

Professor Michael Farthing, has said of the crisis in Gaza that he fully understands the concerns felt by many students and by many others around the world about the events of recent weeks. The University concurs with Professor Trainor, President of Universities UK who speaks for the sector as a whole in calling for an end to the conflict in and beyond Gaza. As he has said, many civilian casualties have occurred in educational establishments. We give unqualified support to his statement which says that: “the UK’s universities are resolutely committed to the right of education, enshrined in the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Higher education, in particular, is a global activity and we value our academic links with universities all over the world. The international nature of higher education means it is force for understanding, tolerance and respect between people.”

Professor Farthing has said the University will stand by internationally agreed conventions on conflict and human rights, in particular the United Nations Agreements on Human Rights (http://www.un.org/rights/). Accordingly, we condemn attacks on civilians, any obstruction of provision of humanitarian aid and the targeting of public buildings and facilities like universities, hospitals and schools, wherever such attacks take place in the world. The Vice-Chancellor noted the United Nations Secretary General’s call for an end to the Israeli occupation that began in 1967, and a just, lasting peace between Israel and its Arab neighbours. He further noted the UN Secretary General’s demand that where civilians have been killed and there are allegations of violations of international humanitarian law, there should be thorough investigations, full explanations and, where it is required, accountability.

The Vice-Chancellor also made clear that the University has a duty of care to all students at Sussex and will continue to work even-handedly and without favour to foster and preserve harmonious relations across the international community of students and scholars studying at Sussex..

The group’s concerns and representations were made in its Press Release: Sussex Students for a Free Palestine. Agreement on the following issues raised by the students was reached.

Ethical investment/divestment

The University is not aware of any investment or research directly or indirectly connecting Sussex to companies that are allegedly complicit in human rights abuses in Gaza or anywhere else.

The University will however review its ethical investment policy that aims to ensure the University only engages in making socially responsible investments. It will establish a working party of Strategy and Resources Committee to undertake this review. The working party will include the student representative on SRC. The working party will be pleased to receive any data or evidence that shows that the policy is knowingly or unknowingly being breached. Any such breach identified by the working party will result in divestment and cessation of the activity.

Sanctions against Israeli goods and products sold on campus

The University is not aware of a call for or agreement by the UN for economic sanctions against Israel. The University would wish to work with USSU to ensure that produce sold on campus indicates clearly its source or provenance so that members of the community can make an informed choice prior to purchase. The University notes that its catering and retail strategy already makes clear that it is the University’s practice to source food and other produce from local farmers and suppliers wherever possible.

Scholarships for Palestinian students

The University will undertake to work with USSU to establish an international scholarship scheme that extends opportunities available for students from regions affected by conflict or catastrophe. The University would seek to develop a scheme that has, as a minimum, six scholarships targeted at such regions in the world. The University will hold discussions with the Director of Development and Alumni relations and the President of the Students’ Union about how alumni and other possible sources of scholarship funding might be approached to establish the scheme.

Meanwhile, the University will review its promotion of the international scholarships that it has currently available in order to increase the number of applications from Palestine and other regions suffering conflict or catastrophe.

Support for Palestinian universities

The University will work with USSU and assist in efforts being made by other UK universities to dispose of or re-cycle surplus books, computers and other learning materials for the benefit of deserving institutions in Palestine currently affected by the conflict, meeting any reasonable shipping costs if necessary. We agree to explore the practicalities of getting this underway; particularly in ensuring that such stock is wanted, functional and in the case of IT, can be supported by the host institution.

No reprisals

The University acknowledges the constructive approach adopted during the protest and in particular the students’ commitment not to disrupt teaching, to preserve the quality of the teaching environment , and to respect the views of other members of the community. The University reaffirms that protest that is lawful and not in breach of the University’s Regulations will not result in action being taken against any student or students involved.
The University and USSU will consider the practical steps needed and associated timetable for implementation of the action agreed above.

27 January 2009

Bradford victorious!

Congratulations to Bradford who have been successful in getting their occupation demands met and are now finalising the wording of their agreement. Earlier today the posted the following statement on their blog:

"It's over, and it lasted less then twenty four hours. Through intense negotiations and serious debate with the Vice Chancellor, we managed to reach an agreement that is both satisfactory to the students taking part in the action and the University management team."

Update and information Weds afternoon

Well after a little bit of a celebration last night, it's back to work again today for many of us, organising tomorrow's events and thinking about our next steps. The rally did not take place this morning as planned due to pretty horrible weather and it feels a little strange being back on campus and not being in occupation: walking up to Library Square and not seeing the Palestinian flag hanging above the Arts A building, but after a very long and trying week, the general mood is definitely one of victory and relief. Again, immense thanks to all those who supported us throughout the week in many different ways and who helped to make this a success, and solidarity to those around the country still in occupation.

Tomorrow we will be holding what may well be our final speaker session in Mandela Hall from 5-7pm, with Jeremy Corbyn MP (for real this time!) and a speaker from the International Solidarity Movement, as well as others. This will be followed by a discussion where students who were not a part of the occupation will have the chance to ask questions of those who were. Then afterwards we will all head to the bar for a well-deserved celebration and fundraiser with an open mic session followed by DJs.

If you're feeling that the end of the occupation has left a gap of action in your life, then this afternoon is the regular weekly Smash EDO noise demo from 4-6pm outside the ITT factory on home farm road (Moulsecombe, just past the bridge on the way into town from campus). Bring whistles, pots and pans etc. Also tonight is a screening of the excellent animated film Persepolis by the FilmSoc in Arts A2 at 7pm. Or if you just fancy a drink and maybe a bit of a song then come and join us in the Cowley Club on London Road for the regular weekly student night where we'll be trying to raise more funds for Palestine.

For all those interested in helping to take things forward, an organisational strategy meeting has been scheduled for Friday in Falmer House Rm 126. We will be organising through the Sussex Palestine Initiative, which brings together groups and individuals on campus and in Brighton interested in Palestine-related events. Please sign up to the email list for a a weekly email with a summary of events to come, and links to the relevant websites and facebook events, or join the facebook group.

Holocaust memorial day

Today is holocaust memorial day. There is a programme of scheduled events on campus starting at 1:45pm. See http://www.sussex.ac.uk/cgjs/documents/090116_hmdprogramme.pdf for details.

No rally today.

Due to miserable weather, the rally has been moved to Thursday evening, to coincide with and incorporate speakers coming to the university. Details to follow...

Instead of the rally, there will be a meeting at 1pm today. We will meet in Falmer Common Room then find a space.

Sussex occupation declares victory!

At half past nine last night, an agreement was reached with the university management, ending negotiations and the occupation. We thank everybody who has contributed towards our success in achieving our demands. A rally will be held at 1pm today in library square.


Press release : SUSSEX OCCUPATION DECLARES VICTORY !

Exactly one week after the beginning of our occupation, almost to the minute, Sussex occupation announces victory. As we celebrate we reaffirm our absolute commitment to the people of Palestine and their continued struggle.

We are glad that we were able to come to a mutual agreement with the university management that will ensure practical support for the people of Palestine. We have experienced significant pressure from management from the outset, culminating in their withdrawal from negotiations at 9 am this morning after our proposed minor clarifications to the final agreement - intended to ensure full commitment to the support of the Palestinian cause - were rejected. After close consideration, we have decided to accept the management’s assurances that these resolutions will be carried out in the full spirit of our occupation and its causes, and we look forward to working in partnership with university management in their implementation.

We are hugely grateful for all of the support that we have received from the wider university community. The 1293 signatures in support of our demands, as well as the countless inspiring personal messages, e-mails, phone calls and donations that we received over the course of the week showed to us the strength of feeling behind us. We also give huge thanks to the university security staff, who have been tremendously considerate and supportive throughout, and we are proud to have them as part of our university.

We are proud to be part of a growing national movement. Students across the country are reasserting their politcal strength, through peaceful and direct action. We are confident that in reclaiming our universities we are reviving the role of educational institutions in effecting
local and international social change.

As this movement has developed a genuine community has been created, of people from disparate groups, both political and social, united by a common cause. This is only the start. We will see this through and continue our campaign for the liberation of the Palestinian people.

In solidarity,

The Sussex Occupation.

Schedule tomorrow...

Rally tomorrow in library square at 1pm! Please come!

General open meeting in the Friend's Meeting House at 11am.

Statement from the Palestinian Federation of Unions of University Professors and Employees



Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Queen Mary's Occupied!

News from Queen Mary University in London that they have gone into occupation. Congratulations guys, we are with you all the way.

Letter to David Lepper, MP

Arts a0002,

University of Sussex,

Falmer,

Brighton BN1 4ND

Dear Mr Lepper,

You are of course aware of the current wave of national university occupations taking place in protest at the recent actions of the Israeli Government. Here at Sussex University, out of the sixteen universities that are being occupied (including LSE, Oxford and Cambridge) we are one of the largest, and as such we wish to communicate to you our reasons for our discontent.

We are currently engaging in peaceful dialogue with our university administration regarding our demands and have made it clear that we mean them to do all that they can to help the Palestinian people. Our demands, like those of other occupying universities nationwide, include a boycott of Israeli goods; a statement of condemnation of the Israeli government’s actions; as well as educational and financial aid to Palestinian organisations and universities. We are a group of people with a cause. We have gathered much support, concern and awareness around the siege in Gaza, and we are gaining more and more. We urge you to end the suffering in Gaza and the West Bank to the best of your abilities.

We are disgusted that the UK government is not honouring it’s obligation under international human rights law to lift the unnecessary and disproportionate restriction currently placed on the movement of Palestinians and of goods in and out of the Gaza Strip. We demand an immediate independent investigation using the UK’s diplomatic tools in respect to the war crimes committed by the Israeli government – examples of which, unfortunately, are too many to list in a short letter.

It is an undeniable truth that innocent people are dying and being treated unjustly. Please do all you can to stop this suffering instead of stalling the process of justice with political procrastination, mislabelled as ‘international diplomacy’.

Listen to our voices: the students protesting nationwide twenty four hours a day; your constituents that support us; the thousands of people who have been protesting in Britain’s streets; but most of all the voices of those Palestinian people who have had their lives shattered who we see in the media everyday.

The message we send to you is very clear: not just as our representative in Parliament, but as a human being; end in the siege in Gaza

Yours sincerely,

The Sussex Occupation

Letter to director general of the BBC

Monday 26th of January 2009

Arts a0002,

University of Sussex,

Falmer,

Brighton BN1 4ND

Dear Mr Thompson,

Millions of people in this country, and worldwide, have relied on the BBC to convey unbiased, truthful and transparent news for decades. We, a group of around a hundred Sussex University students are writing to convey our deepest outrage with the frankly biased news coverage concerning the current actions of the Israeli government.

We have joined together, like many other universities over the country, and occupied a University building until our university administration meets our demands of boycotting Israeli goods and giving financial and academic aid to universities and civilians on Palestinian occupied land. We are here to call for aid and awareness of the reality of the events that are happening in the Middle East at the moment, and you should be ashamed that we no longer feel we can use BBC journalism as a reliable source.

On a number of occasions you have misinformed the public on the very facts that have made the massacre so despicable. You have lied about the deaths of innocent children and the disgraceful use of weapons by the Israeli government; you have not shown appeals of aid for fears of being ‘biased’. For almost a week now we have joined together despite different backgrounds, religions and political-lineages under one cause: to show solidarity with the suffering people of Palestine. This undeniable horror is in need of desperate attention.

The job of the BBC is to respond to the interests and opinions of the British public. We are in our millions, united by the knowledge that what is happening in the West Bank and Gaza Strip is unacceptable. Only when the grim reality of the Israeli occupation is reported truthfully will the BBC be working towards the public’s goal, not against it.

We urge you to broadcast the truth, as millions worldwide depend on you to do. No more lies. No more fictions.

Yours sincerely,

The Sussex Occupation

Letter sent to Gordon Brown

Arts a0002,

University of Sussex,

Falmer,

Brighton BN1 4ND

Dear Mr Brown,

You are of course aware of the current wave of national university occupations taking place in protest at the recent actions of the Israeli Government. Here at Sussex University, out of the sixteen universities that are being occupied (including LSE, Oxford and Cambridge) we are one of the largest, and as such we wish to communicate to you our reasons for our discontent.

We are currently engaging peaceful dialogue with out university administration regarding our demands have made it clear that we mean them to do all they can to help the Palestinian people. Our demands, like those of other occupying universities nationwide, include a boycott of Israeli Goods; a statement of condemnation of the Israeli government’s actions; as well as educational and financial aid to Palestinian organisations and universities. We are a group of people with a cause; and we have gathered much support, concern and awareness around the siege of Gaza and the West Bank, and we are gaining more and more.

Hence we speak for many more than ourselves when we say that we are disheartened, if not disgusted, by the dire stance the British government has taken on the persecution and slaughter carried out by the Israeli state. Time and time again we are on the streets of Britain, en masse, calling for those of you who are able to directly end the siege in Gaza and the West Bank– you have not listened.

It is your duty to uphold the implementation of human rights law and support the investigation of those who break them to be held accountable. The world has witnessed the Israeli military breaking these laws repeatedly, yet not enough has been done to hold the perpetrators accountable. You are not fulfilling your duty to the British people by ignoring these events, and further; you are not fulfilling your duty to human rights and to those who are suffer through their transgression.

We urge you to use your diplomatic tools to stop this suffering; do not prolong it with procrastination and silence masked as ‘international diplomacy’.

Listen to our voices: not just of the students occupying universities; not just of those who are showing their support; not just the hundreds of thousands of protestors and commentators of the recent weeks – but most of all listen to the voices of the Palestinians as they are mercilessly attacked and mistreated.

The task we demand of you is very clear: end the occupation of Gaza and the West Bank. This is the demand of millions of people, and like our occupation, they will not back down until this demand is met.

Yours sincerely,

The Sussex Occupation

Letter sent to Palestinian universities

Dear Students of ….,

We from the University of Sussex occupation are writing to convey to you our support and solidarity with the appalling circumstances affecting your everyday lives.

We represent around a hundred students from numerous backgrounds, religions and political-lineages. We all feel compelled to join together under the common cause of showing solidarity with the victims in Palestine. We have been occupying our main lecture theatre for about a week now, demanding the University of Sussex administration give financial and academic aid; as well as a statement of support to Universities and civilians in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

Please be aware of this message of support, not only from members of the occupation, but also of those who have shown support for our actions; and most importantly, the hundreds of thousands of British civilians who have been campaigning for the end of the occupation of Palestinian land for years; and who will not stop until justice is achieved.

You are in our thoughts.

In solidarity,

The Sussex occupation

Speaker session Tuesday evening

130 people attended today's speaker session to hear the following speakers:

Geoffrey Whitfield, former chaplain of Sussex and executive director of 'The World Sports Peace Project', spoke of the importance of conflict prevention over conflict resolution and gave us ideas for actions that we can ourselves take towards this end.

Kees Van Der Pijl, of the Sussex International Relations department, educated us on the history of the conflict in relation to Western imperialism and the Napoleonic empire, explaining the historical origins of Israel as a European colonisation project for displaced Jews.

John Molyneux dismantled some of the common media myths that operate as smokescreens for the issues, including the conflation of a stance against the policies of Israel with anti-semitism; the notion of 'impartiality' as not taking sides in situations of the absolute dispossession and oppression of a people, and the idea that the Israel-Palestine conflict is simply a matter of two peoples that don't get on rather than occupation.

Update on negotiatons - Tuesday 27th, afternoon

Rumours of a victory circulated among the occupiers yesterday after management released a statement which at first sight seemed to respond positively to most of our demands. However, after a closer reading and some discussion, the general sentiment was that we were quite pleased with management’s draft and after discussion decided to add some minor additions to the text, in the interest of clarity. The draft document, with which management wanted to come to “mutual consent” and an end to the occupation, outlined the establishment of a scholarship scheme “that extended opportunities available for students from regions affected by conflict or catastrophe.” It also said they would attempt to increase the number of applicants from Palestine. We made some revisions to management’s text, which came to read:

“The University will undertake to work with USSU to establish an international scholarship scheme, the Mahmoud Darwish scheme, functional as of the academic year 2009-2010, that extends opportunities available for students from regions affected by conflict or catastrophe, seeking to promote the idea that the victims of the recent conflict in Palestine should be the beneficiaries of this scholarship scheme.”

The rest of the text on scholarships was left intact. A small amendment was made concerning the boycott demand, namely that the University would work with the USSU Ethical and Environmental Committee specifically, rather than just the USSU executive. A small compromise was made, in that the source of foods would now be labelled clearly so that people can make a conscious choice on whether they want to buy Israeli products or not, rather than outright boycott of these products.

This morning at 8am, an email from Phil Harvey, the University’s registrar, arrived outlining the VC’s “deep disappointment” at our response. It read: “The amendments add very little of substance to an agreement that Professor Wright and I explained to you very carefully yesterday needed to be settled and the occupation ended last night.” Further occupation of the lecture hall was deemed unacceptable. We were given an ultimatum until 9am this morning to agree to the statement and leave Arts A2, or management would withdraw the statement.

An emergency meeting was held today at 11am about this last email, and the general consensus was that the attitude from management seemed awkward. If our amendments added “very little of substance” to an agreement that “needed to be settled and the occupation ended last night”, why was there “deep disappointment” from the VC?

The occupation continues and we are looking forward to having further communications with management today.

Some more statements of support...

“You certainly aren't isolated - you're giving voice to the feelings of horror of the majority of people everywhere. Good on you.”- Ben Drake

“The occupation is not disruptive and even if it was having an impact on my cushti day to day student life- what a small price to pay. the organisers of this occupation have influenced people to stand up for what's right. I'm proud that I go to uni where such people exist.”- Huda Wallaya

“I was part of the LSE occupation and you are all amazing for sticking up for so many days and not giving in! Solidarity from the LSE!”- Anja Krausova

“I was a technician at bristol university for 15 years and a strong trade unionist and member of the joint unions committee. I cannot tell you how delighted I am to see students taking radical political action again. Don't let anyone tell you that you have no power.
Keep it up!”- Will Brown

“Glad to hear you're still going strong!All the best from King's!!!”- KLC occupation in solidarity with Gaza

“Complete solidarity from Scarborough. Keep it going until they get their heads out of their asses and do something about this shit!”- Ben Tyson

“Just wanted to send a message of solidarity from Campaign Against Arms Trade to those of you who have occupied your universities in solidarity with Gaza and to those of you who are continuing to do so. It is really exciting to see such a resurgence of direct action against the war and militarism on campus taking place, and to see the occupations spreading across the country. Your demands are important and it is impressive how many have been won!”- Anne-Marie, Campaign Against Arms Trade

keep it up!- Jesse Scharf

“I have just seen on the internet about your occupation in support of the people of Gaza and against the atrocities performed by the israeli govenment and military.
I would like to offer my support. Thanks- Supportive Brighton Resident, Sue

"This is to say how strongly I support your action, and how much I hope that our students here in Cardiff will follow your example. What the Israelis have done to the Palestinian people during these past months - with the active complicity of the American, British and many European governments - constitutes a war-crime of the first magnitude and a genocidal act by any reasonable definition of that term. If those who ordered this mass slaughter and who carried it out - politicians and military leaders alike - are not held accountable and made to answer for their actions under international law it will open to way to any number of future atrocities and crimes against humanity. Your courageous protest will at least make it more difficult for our government (along with the BBC and other agencies of mass disinformation) to continue in their present course of abject compliance with the dictates of US-Israeli axis propaganda. In solidarity and with the greatest admiration." - Christopher Norris, Professor of Philosophy, University of Cardiff, Wales

Update Monday evening

Despite rumours to the contrary today, our occupation is still very much ongoing and we are now preparing for day seven of our occupation tomorrow. We received some very positive communication from the university management today and having talked everything over at our general meeting tonight it seems that a positive resolution is in sight. Tomorrow daytime is wholly given over to lectures in Arts A2 and we need to maintain our strong silent presence: please do come and sign up to the rota if you have a spare hour in your day.

A member of the occupation was interviewed today for the awesome radical culture 'zine last hours and more media appearances are on the cards: watch this space!

Another speaker session is scheduled for tomorrow at 6pm with Geoffrey Whitfield, former chaplain of Sussex and executive director of 'The World Sports Peace Project', a conflict prevention NGO. We will also hear from Kees Van Der Pijl of the Sussex International Relations department, and will be very pleased to welcome the former national executive of Jews for Justice for Palestinians.

Monday, 26 January 2009

Debate on the boycott

170 people came along this evening to the occupied Arts A2 to hear and discuss different perspectives on the question of the boycott of Israel:

Lee Vernon of Socialist Students spoke against a blanket boycott of Israeli goods on the grounds that it would affect the working class and increase a siege mentality, calling for an active condemnatory working class movement.

Alana Lentin of the Sociology department spoke for a consumer boycott, arguing that this is something called for by Palestinans and Israeli radicals and drawing attention to the way in which an economic boycott, although largely symbolic, would enable engagement with ordinary people who would not otherwise be politicised by the situation.

Dr. Paul Oestreicher, speaking for Jews for Justice for Palestinians, called for a partial boycott of targeting the import of arms. Boycott as an instrument in the hands of all people that really want to help the Palestinian people.

Dr. Paul Oestreicher, speaking for Jews for Justice for Palestinians, called for a partial boycott targeting the import of arms intially followed by a gradual boycott targeting other areas that enable the military to function. He spoke in opposition to an academic boycott, expressing the view that the exchange of music, knowledge, culture and humanity is desperately needed by Israel in order not to be isolated from the world.

Tom Hickey, national executive of UCU, spoke in favour of an academic boycott of Israel stating that inaction against those institutions complicit in the occupation of Palestine is to become complicit in this crime ourselves. He made the points that an academic boycott targets institutions not individuals, and "constitutes a dagger threat that goes straight to the heart of the Israeli state" stating that "when you have that kind of pressure it is grossly irresponsible not to use it in these circumstances."

Another speaker session is scheduled for tomorrow at 6pm.






Update Monday afternoon

It has been a fairly long and tiring day (as Mondays usually are) and having declared our occupation a no-alcohol zone, quite a few people have departed for the pub for a long-overdue pint before the boycott discussion this evening. We are all very excited about it: we have an excellent line-up of panel speakers including (confirmed today) Alana Lentin from Sussex sociology department and a representative from Jews for Justice for Palestinians. Please come along to Arts A2 at 7pm to join in the debate.

A detailed and positive response was received from management this afternoon following a meeting with occupation representatives this morning. We will be discussing this in depth at our general meeting at 9pm tonight following the boycott discussion.

Petition signatures from faculty and students are being totalled up and support looks to be pretty overwhelming: several hundred signatures had been counted at the time of this post. We also have 889 current members on our facebook group: thanks for your support!

In less positive news today, the Sussex student newspaper 'The Badger' ran several predictably atrocious articles on the public talk last Tuesday with Dr. Azzam Tamimi at which the occupation was launched, linking the negative and biased perceptions of the authors more or less explicitly with the occupation (another article on the same page condemning Hamas). The only positive article in connection with the occupation was one concerning the current national UK wave, with LSE named in the headline. In fact this echoes reports from LSE of slanderous coverage of the occupation in their student newsaper. For anyone who was present at the talk on Tuesday or who has visited our occupation over the course of the week the unrepresentative and one-sided and unrepresentative nature of these viewpoints will be self-evident and we encourage those who feel betrayed or misrepresented by their own student media to post their own comments on the website to give a fairer picture.

Finally, a delegate from Sussex visited the Cambridge and King's occupation yesterday, and a write-up can be viewed on the Cambridge occupation blog. We have also heard of negative tactics and hostility today from the Cambridge administration and we offer our solidarity and urge you to keep strong. Another update to follow this evening...

Sunday, 25 January 2009

Update Sunday evening

Well we've all been working really hard over the past week but I guess that we're still students at the end of the day: this morning we overslept our scheduled meeting time by 15 mins before somebody woke us up with Rage Against The Machine. We got stuck straight into our schedule, reviewing and finalising our response to the management and it was sent out to them this afternoon.

After a bit of lunch, the rest of the afternoon was taken up with organising in our working groups and catching up on all our jobs ready for tomorrow morning. A delegation attended the visiting conference of the model United Nations and were received with interest and enthusiasm. After a bit of feedback in the afternoon, we watched a dispatches documentary on the Israeli control of media coverage of the war on Gaza and then (after an awesome curry and surprise home-made apple pie) the rest of the evening was spent chilling out with some songs.

Its been an intense and pretty inspiring week with everybody working together to establish an accessible and organised occupation, not to mention all the solidarity and support that we have received, excellent educational talks, and the news of new university occupations around the country reaching us sometimes more than once a day and the feeling generally is one of positivity and strength.

We've got silent occupations of lectures for most of the day tomorrow and Tuesday so please do come along and sign up to the rota if you have an hour or two in your day. Then tomorrow evening at 7:00 we'll be hosting an open discussion on the question of boycott (point 3 of our demands) with invited speakers representing four different perspectives on the debate. We look forward to seeing you there!



BBC Glasgow Occupied

We have just had news that a group of 50-100 protesters have staged an occupation at BBC's headquarters in Glasgow in protest against their refusal to broadcast the DEC humanitarian aid for Gaza appeal. The occupiers are demanding to speak with a senior BBC representative and are refusing to leave until the BBC reverse their decision.

Sussex occupation would like to express their support for the campaign.

Monday's Timetable: Arts A2

8-9am: Wake Up & Tidy Up

9-12: Lectures in A2. Reps meet with with VC.

1-2pm: Discussion.

2-3: Lectures in A2.

3-4: Discussion.

4-7: Lectures in A2.

7-9: The Boycott Issue: Open debate, with a range of speakers.

9pm: Decision making meeting.

Sunday: Work carries on!

Press and Publicity groups meet

Five days in and still going strong, the occupiers are hard at work contacting press and other occupations across the UK.

Efforts are still being made to meet coursework deadlines!

Schedule for the rest of the day:

4:30pm Feedback from working groups

5:30pm Lunch

6:30pm Screening of Dispatches documentary: 'Unseen Gaza'.

Evening: Open Mic.

Sussex demands in solidarity with Palestine

Josh talks to us about the Sussex Occupation demands.

These are the videos of the National press conference for University Occupations in solidarity with Palestine. Two delegates from Sussex were sent off Thursday the 22nd of January to report to Al Jazeera, Press TV and different other media about the university occupation.
A successful press conference, which granted us excellent links with the King's College occupation (still ongoing) and the London School of Economics Occupation (that ended on the 21st of January).














Safer spaces policy

Our Occupation is a Safe Space

In writing this policy we acknowledge that the creation of a safe working environment for all will be conducive to our collective functioning and the practical application of our ideals and principles.

A safer spaces policy is not a list of rules to be enforced by punishments or exclusion. It is a mutual agreement to be taken on and considered by all group participants in order to facilitate the cooperative functioning and well-being of the group.

This occupation will be a space where people feel supported and respected by one another and motivated to work together cooperatively. Intimidation and discrimination will not be tolerated.


Our policy:

It is our objective to create an inclusive environment for all and to strive for full equality of participation. Personal feelings and individual well-being are integral to the effective organisation of the group and must be treated as such. Participants are asked to be aware of their language and behaviour, and to think about whether it might be offensive to others. There is no space for discrimination against others on any grounds, including but not exclusive to religion, gender, race, political perspective and/or affiliation, (dis)ability, sexuality.

We acknowledge that these sorts of discriminations are endemic and encourage participants to examine their own privileges and received prejudices to further their own learning and to open up avenues for all members of the group. Similarly, an effort to overcome our own expectations and assumptions of others as they are shaped by the above factors is of benefit to all.

Whilst we acknowledge that individual political and organisational experience is valuable to the group and should be put to constructive use, in the spirit of collectivity and equality all participants should be encouraged to contribute according to resources and volition.


Group meetings:

The democratic process can only function if participants feel able to express their opinions freely and have them met with respect and consideration. Group dynamics are important and affect the decision-making process, and how involved everyone feels within it. To this end we encourage self-regulation against such intimidatory behaviour as tutting; exasperated sighing; banging on tables; shouting; inflammatory language; speaking when others are, or speaking out of turn.

The facilitator reserves the right to prioritise people who have been quiet and newcomers over those who have spoken lots already. Any special needs of group participants will be accommodated by the group and by the facilitator. The facilitator has a special responsibility to reflect the safer space policy in their facilitation and is also protected by it.

Any individual has the right to register to the group if at any time the safer space policy has been violated in the knowledge that this will be immediately acknowledged and dealt with by the group or added to the agenda for consideration at a more appropriate time.



If anyone experiences behaviour that they feel violates these principles, volunteers from the welfare working group will be available to create dialogue-orientated resolution between individuals and provide support.



Some positive things that we should do to create a safer space:
- respect people's physical and emotional boundaries
- respect people's opinions, beliefs, differing states of being and differing points of view
- be responsible for your own action. Be aware that your actions do have an effect on others despite what your intentions may be
- take responsibility for your own well-being and get help if you need it

Saturday, 24 January 2009

Update Saturday evening

Another productive meeting this evening with the general atmosphere relaxed but determined. Our occupied space is becoming ever more organised and even homely, with a recycling system in place, grocery lists on the board, and constant coffee on the go. Tomorrow will be focused on reviewing our response to university management and organising ourselves and our working groups so that come Monday morning, the return of students to campus and the inevitable 8am wake-up call, we will be able to hit the ground running.

We suspect that Monday morning won't be quite so good for David Milliband who can expect to receive 60 letters on his doorstep from the Amnesty International society and other students demanding that the UK government push for accountability for war crimes and an independent investigation. More letter-writing is planned for tomorrow with no lack of suggestions for potential recipients!

And perhaps first among them will be a few editor's-in-chief including Mark Thompson of the spineless BBC. We were happy to see ourselves in the Guardian today, but remain cynically disappointed by the lack of mainstream media coverage of the growing UK wave of university occupations in general. Nonetheless, communications have been made with other occupied universities and we are looking forward to strengthening these links to consolidate our movement across the UK and increase our effectiveness in demanding practical support for Palestine. We also received a positive news from those who attended the national demonstration in London today with reports of a lively march with demonstrators peaceful but no less angry.

Some pictures from Wednesday 21st.






Update Saturday afternoon

It has been a very calm and focused day so far. The absence of lectures and thus our ability to make full use of Arts A2 throughout the day has enabled long and in-depth discussion of our demands, which is still going on at present. This morning many people participated in a workshop on consensus decision making and it seems to be having benefits already with the discussion flowing much more smoothly and time considerations being met. A safer spaces policy was also drafted which will be presented to the group at 7:00 for discussion, and later this evening we will be relaxing with a film screening of Paradise Now.

Friday, 23 January 2009

Schedule of events Saturday

We will be holding point-by-point discussions on our demands in Arts A2 from 12:00pm until 5:00pm.

12-1pm Statement
1-2pm Divestment
2-3pm Boycott
3-4pm Scholarships
4-5pm Shipping of resources

5-7pm Film showing: Paradise Now
7-8pm Feedback on safer spaces policy


We have also kindly been given use of the Friend's Meeting House, scheduled events are as follows:

10-12pm Consensus decision making workshop
12-1pm Discussion and formulation of 'safer spaces' policy

5-6pm Chill-out: massage and relaxation

Please come along and get involved in as many of these events as you wish. There will also be creative activities throughout the day.

Update Friday evening

We must be getting better at this: tonight our evening meeting finished exactly on time! Our third full day of occupation was as action-packed as ever: after being rudely awoken at 8am by the invigorating sounds of Wham blaring out over the speakers, we set about the day's activities: updating publicity, speaking to students and other university members, meeting journalists, cooking, conducting research pertaining to the demands, maintaining the silent occupation during lectures, and many more things that comprise the daily organisational activities of an occupation.

The infostall outside Arts A2 is full of flyers, timetables of events, relevant reading material and other useful information (as well as the petition) to read or to take away with you so please come along and have a look.

We had an excellent speaker session today comprising members of Sussex university faculty: Jan Selby from International Relations, Alana Lentin from Sociology who gave a biographically informed account of the conflict, and Andrew Chitty from the Philosophy department (thanks for the donations guys!) who gave a historical account of the conflict and the need for a one-state solution. We also heard from Mark Cushman from LSE (who were recently successful in achieving their occupation demands) who gave an excellent account of the strategies and ideologies of the Israeli occupation as it manifests itself in the day-to-day realities of life in Palestine. A lively discussion on the method of boycott ensued: we will be holding a public informational session on this topic next Monday. Later on in the day we heard from Stuart Halforty from Stop the War coalition.

Massive congratulations and solidarity to the 100+ Cambridge university students who have staged a peaceful occupation of a law building on their campus tonight. You heard how excited we all were! We also have news that Bristol, Nottingham, Kingston, Manchester university and Salford have all occupied! A round-up is given in an article in tomorrow's Guardian, in which Sussex students are quoted (with a lovely photo). More press reports forthcoming: keep an eye on the 'Media' links-list for info.

We spent some time tonight discussing our group dynamics and how to ensure a welcoming environment for all that is conducive to everybody being able to contribute to the organisation and decision-making process in equal measure. It was decided that a working group will draft a safer spaces policy tomorrow that will then be reviewed and adopted by the group. In this way our occupation combines our serious motivational objectives for concrete positive effects in Palestine with the creation of a positive political reality within our own community.

We have many exciting events scheduled (and in the process of being scheduled) for the weekend, including a workshop being hosted at 10am tomorrow on consensus decision making. We will also use the time to creatively reorganise our space to create a more visual and informative environment. A delegation will also be representing us at the national demonstration in London tomorrow.

We have had no further communication to speak of regarding our demands from the vice-chancellor's office. We are going to take this weekend to consolidate our research and ideas in order to have something solid and fully representative of all of the opinions of the occupation to resume dialogue next week.

Of course, there are no lectures timetabled now until Monday morning, so please come down any time to join in activities and get involved.

Further information on our demands

We have had lots of interesting discussion with students and others around campus about our occupation demands. Some people requested more information on the general background and implication of our demands. We are hoping to schedule an informational public meeting very soon on this topic; in the meantime here are some further thoughts on the motivations behind our demands...

WHY ARE WE DOING THIS?

In occupying Arts A2 we aim to create a space that allows for free debate and discussion within the student body on the Israeli/Palestine issue. Whilst the students of the occupation come from a wide range of motivations and perspectives we are all united in our support of the people of Gaza. We actively encourage all students who wish to contribute their ideas as to how we as students can offer practical humanitarian relief, whilst at the same time pressuring our governments and institutions to take a progressive stance toward an issue that is increasingly becoming a humanitarian and political crisis. We wish to take this opportunity to explain the reasons behind the demands, and what we aim to achieve through them.

WHAT ARE WE AIMING TO ACHIEVE?

1) As an educational institution we feel that the University of Sussex has an obligation to defend educational institutions worldwide. This can be through a statement condemning the destruction of educational institutions, such as the bombing of the Islamic University of Gaza and two UN schools. In line with Academic and Student Unions across the country we feel that the University of Sussex must play a role in actively supporting and facilitating humanitarian relief to a region scarred by violent conflict and the ongoing blockade. We also feel that our university should be speaking out against all humanitarian atrocities of this scale.

2) The University of Sussex currently holds a total of £5,762 in arms manufacturers Cobham Inc and General Electric. As fee-paying students, we demand that our fees not be invested in companies complicit in the war crimes that have taken place in Gaza, such as the use of white-phosphorous.

3) By selling Israeli goods on campus, the profits from which are used in part to fund the IDF, the University is demonstrating complicity with war crimes. As such the boycott is not intended to incur any suffering by the Israeli people but rather to put pressure on the Israeli government to act, in much the same spirit as was shown by the university during the apartheid (when all South African produce was banned). We would like to invite everybody to come and discuss why we believe that this is of fundamental importance at a public informational session next Monday.



4) During the most recent military assault on Gaza, the Islamic University of Gaza was partially destroyed along with two UN schools, amounting in over 50 civilian deaths. Access to education is a human right which has been consistently denied to Palestinians by Israel, most recently through the destruction of educational institutions in Gaza, but also through the on-going economic blockade which has resulted in shortages of educational resources.

We demand that our University offers 6 scholarships to Palestinians who are unable to continue their studies due to Israeli actions. Each yeah our university extends paid scholarships to a quota of national and international students. The scholarship that is exclusive to UK students was not entirely exhausted last year, and the money left over has as yet not been used in conjunction with this, or any other scholarship scheme. We insist that the principle of providing funding for students less privileged than us be upheld properly and also extended to Palestine to make it possible for students to finish their education.



5) Large amounts of disused PCs are in storage on campus. These resources are not needed by students here, and if donated to Palestinian educational facilities would not result in a reduction of services here at Sussex. The University would otherwise have to pay for disposal of these resources, so instead we propose that these funds been spent on shipping and postage to Palestine.



6) It is our lawful right to peaceful protest. It is our explicit intention that this occupation be conducted in a manner that is respectful to our fellow students and non-disruptive of lectures. We demand that these rights be fully respected by the University of Sussex.

Call for information

With regard to our second demand, that the university divest from companies complicit in human rights abuses, the university management expressed interest in the information that we previously published on their current investments in companies manufacturing arms: Cobham Inc and General Electric. They informed us that they have existing ethical investment policy guidelines in place and requested that we provide them with any further information that we have on current unethical investments so that they can investigate these. If you have any information or research that would help with this request then please send it to sussexoccupation@gmail.com.

Hot lunch today

An extra hot meal has been scheduled for 12pm today to be served outside Arts A2 in addition to the daily meal at 7pm. All food is free (any donations welcome).

We were also relieved to hear that the disgusting and unlawful management siege on occupying Manchester Metropolitan students has been broken. This happened by staff bringing biscuits, fruit, coffee and tea. We say:


Message from Sussex Occupation to Manchester Metropolitan University: 
"Biscuits and tea are at the centre of any good occupation. We're glad that your supply has been replenished by supportive academics and staff. Shame on Manchester Met management! Solidarity from Sussex."

Friday 23rd

Timetable for Friday 23rd

9am- Press and publicity working group meetings

9am-2.30pm- Occupation continues throughout lectures

2.30pm- Sussex academics speak on the ongoing conflict in the Middle East, and in support with the occupation. Confirmed speakers: Jan Selby (department of International Relations), Alana Lentin (Sociology), Mark Cushman (LSE occupation).

5pm- Stop the War representative visits occupation.

7pm- Organising meeting.

Forthcoming events/meetings:

Skype link with Palestine on monday evening.

Public information meeting about the demand to boycott Israeli goods on campus.

Consensus decision making workshop Saturday, time to be confirmed.

There are social events yet to be organised, including a fundraiser and gig.

If you would like to organise an event, have a skill or some knowledge you would like to share, or want to come and speak to the occupation please send an email to sussexoccupation@gmail.com. The occupied space is free and open; if you have any you views you would like to share or contributions you would like to make everyone is welcome.

Update Thursday evening

A record number of students are spending the night in the occupied Arts A2 tonight (our third night of occupation). The general mood is of tiredness and relief following a mammoth organisational meeting which finished just half an hour ago, but spirits are high and we are all looking forward to getting on with things tomorrow. Thanks to everybody who has offered us snacks, skills, support etc. over the course of the day and to the security who have left the toilets unlocked for us.

We extend our solidarity to all the new university occupations that have taken place today: Manchester, Newcastle, Oxford (who have already been successful in achieving all of their demands!) and Leeds. The news came to us in rumours and confirmations throughout the day, often in the middle of long meetings or intense discussions, and made us all feel jubilant!

We discussed at length the response from the vice-chancellor's office that was received this afternoon. We are glad that the university management is now engaging with the occupation and have acknowledged the urgency of its cause but find the response to our demands vague and unsatisfactory. We have requested further specificity and depth.

We also received today several visitors to the occupation who came and spoke to us and offered their support, including Paul Cecil (UCU branch executive), a representative of Socialist Students, and some international comrades from Turkey. This evening we also had a live skype link-up with Serena, a comrade in Palestine and a student at Al-Quds university with which Sussex is twinned. She will be visiting Sussex next March as part of the Brighton-Tubas solidarity network and told us about some of the day to day realities of the events of recent weeks and the demonstrations in the West Bank.

Please come down and visit us if you haven't done so already! The support so far has been tremendous, but we are still eager to engage with the wider university community as much as possible and would love to hear your thoughts and ideas - whatever they are. Tomorrow we have another exiting and varied speaker session including talks and a poetry reading from members of the university faculty. We hope to see you there.

Thursday, 22 January 2009

Update Thursday afternoon

Sussex university management have opened engagement with the occupation and negotiations have begun. The liaison team have received a letter from the vice-chancellor's office which will be presented at today's general meeting at 7pm following the rally at 5pm with talks from Andrew Chitty and Jeremy Corbyn, MP. Please come along to discuss our response.

Two delegates from the occupation, Bushra and Riya, today attended a national press conference and have been interviewed by Al Jazeera television and Iranian TV channel Press TV.

A banner was hung on the front of the Arts1 building last night. The banner reads: 'End the siege of Gaza now'.

10 things that you can do...

Yesterday in the meeting somebody raised the issue of decentralisation. This means that rather than having one central organising committee who decide matters and then delegates out tasks and responsibility, everybody can contribute creatively according to the time and means at their disposal in accordance with the decisions made collectively (we use both consensus and vote) at general meetings. In this way our power is spread out across people, maximising our abilities and resources. Arts A2 is the organising hub and spirit of the occupation, but our action extends into classrooms and the rest of campus and beyond. We are all the occupation! Here are some ideas for ways in which you can contribute:

1. Sign the petition. Spare paper copies can also be picked up from the infostall in Arts A2 to gather more signatures from your classmates and friends.

2. Write a letter or email to the Vice-Chancellor's office informing them of your support for the demands of the occupation and your desire to see them met immediately. Send statements to VC@sussex.ac.uk and please copy in the occupation email address too. If you need help or motivation then the University's Amnesty International Society are also holding group letter-writing sessions.

3. Raise awareness. Discuss issues with your friends, and take a few minutes at the start of your lecture (with permission from the lecturer of course) to inform your classmates of the occupation and the reasons behind it. Or email your lecturers and department urging support for the occupation. A template of key points that you might like to raise can be picked up from the infostall in Arts A2.

4. Come to the meetings! They are totally open and accessible to all, and everybody can have a say. You can get involved in one of the working groups, put yourself forward for tasks, take inspiration for solidarity actions, or offer suggestions and ideas.

5. Show your support at the organised events. There is a rally and speaker session tonight in Arts A2, poster/banner-making sessions, music and film, and more events are being scheduled throughout the occupation. There is also a national demonstration in London on Saturday for which we will be organising transport.

6. Send a statement of support to the occupation's email address. You could also write a letter or article to the local media or to the Badger. If you belong to a group or society then pass a resolution of support. These can be used to show strength of feeling for our campaign and demands.

7. Publicise. Flyers, stickers and other materials can be picked up from the infostall in Arts A2 to be posted or distributed around campus and beyond. Or make your own banners, flags etc! Also invite all of your friends to the facebook group and send them details of this blog.

8. Occupy! We have a symbolic silent presence of 15 people at the back of Arts A2 during daytime lectures and need a minimum of 15 people at all times in the room and at nights (there is food and sometimes entertainment, and an agreed lights-out quiet period). There is a timetable to which you can add your name, or just come along when you have a bit of spare time.

9. Fundraise or donate. We are fundraising for Gaza, and also are collecting contributions for food, materials etc. for the occupation. Any donations of equipment, food, art materials etc. are also very welcome.

10. Organise an action or event. Either come and get people on board at a collective meeting, or do it in solidarity with the occupation. Socials, film screenings, banner drops, awareness-raising actions... whatever you fancy. Be creative!

Events today...

Unfortunately, because of the weather, we have decided not to hold an outdoor rally and march at lunchtime today as planned. Instead, we will be holding an indoor rally and speaker session at 5pm in our liberated space, Arts A5. MP Jeremy Corbyn will be coming to speak to us, and then the different Union leaders and other members of the community. See you there.

(There is also an info stall being set up at the front of Arts A2 where you can pick up petitions, key points for raising the issues in your class, and other information. Scheduled lectures will be occurring throughout the day until 5 with a symbolic silent occupation at the back of the hall so please come in between classtimes if you wish to visit the stall).

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Some statements of support

We are grateful for the many statements of solidarity and support that we have received since we started our occupation. These are some of them:

"You are doing great work. There are so many actions taking place in Brighton in solidarity with the people of Palestine - let's hope that together we can make our voices heard and make a difference." Ann Hallam, Brighton and Hove Palestine Solidarity Campaign
"I have just heard about your occupation and wish to applaud your brave and
principled stance. The assault by Israel on Gaza was a brutal act of state
terrorism and a crime against humanity. Any institution that gives support to
this state and its institutions is clearly in breach of human rights laws and the
Geneva Convention. You are not alone and I very much hope that some real justice
comes from your action." - Dr. R. Hasan, Senior Lecturer, SPRU - Science &
Technology Policy Research

"Solidarity greetings from Kings College London Socialist Students to you! We were very excited to hear you had gone into occupation as well"

"All our luck and solidarity" - Warwick Socialist Students

"Solidarity greetings from the Wednesday branch of the Brighton and Hove Socialist Party. We stand in solidarity with you and the workers in Palestine and throughout the Middle East. For a socialist Middle East free from war, poverty and terror."

"Just wanted to say well done for occupying at Sussex... this wave of occupations is incredibly inspiring, and I was really pleased to hear about you following in the steps of LSE, SOAS and all the others in taking action. Solidarity from Manchester." - Siobhan

"In our consumerist and celebrity obsessed age many people don't want to know about wars and conflicts, it's too ugly and uncomfortable. But how can it be that our comfortable lifestyles are based on so much suffering in the world. Let's not put up with it. It's fantastic that you guys take this action." -
Susanne Schuster

"Just wanted to send you a message of support for your actions in defence of Palestine. Keep up the pressure - you will be an inspiration to others." - Dr Karen Evans, Senior Lecturer, School of Sociology and Social Policy and National Executive of UCU

"I am a lecturer in the law department at London Met and have just heard of your occupation. What's happened in Gaza has disgusted millions around the world and we can't allow Israel to continue to deny any humanity to the Palestinians and keep on flouting International Law. I'm writing to express my full support for what you are doing. Keep it up...nothing changes unless people stand up and demand change." - Rob Murthwaite

"Stay strong safe and wise because you´re about to do something big." - Francisco Silva, Tasca Do Chico blog

"Your action gives me hope for the future. It's wonderful to know that there are young people who are well informed
and prepared to do something for a better world." -Vesna Main

"Congratulations on your brilliant action! Keep up the struggle. Palestine must be free!" -
John Molyneux
Secretary, Portsmouth Stop the War Coalition

"I'm one of the Sussex profs who signed the letter in the Guardian. I'm so glad to hear
you're taking action, and I wanted to write to you to give you my support. I've been in Cairo,
so haven't been able to come to the meeting, nor will I be able to go on the march today.
I am here with Palestinian colleagues - including a colleague from Gaza who lost family and
friends in the attack, and whose son has survived but been traumatised by seeing children die.
They urge us all to demonstrate and to keep on demonstrating, and to put on the pressure
for a full boycott of Israel." -
Andrea Cornwall

"Solidarity with the occupying students of Sussex. Free, free Palestine." - Malcolm Povey,UCU National Executive (Personal Capacity)

"Tonight's meeting of the Manchester Trades Union Council, with delegates from branches of the RMT, UNITE, UNISON, FBU, NUJ, PCS, USDAW and UCU unions, voted unanimously to send a message of support to the
student occupations in Sussex, Warwick, King's and LSE protesting Israel's attack on Gaza and its continuing blockade. We consider your example of action in solidarity with the oppressed, against the is an inspiration to us
all in the struggle for justice for Palestine." -
Geoff Brown, Secretary, Manchester Trades Union Council

"These are very dark days for the Palestinians. The savage Israeli assault on them has ended but the occupation has not. I salute you on the brave stand you have taken on behalf of the people of Gaza. Keep up the struggle for justice for the Palestinians!" - Avi Shlaim, FBA Professor of International Relations, St Antony's College, Oxford

"As a long standing member of PSC who has sometimes felt that we are shouting into the wind, it is wonderful for us too to know that our message is no longer going unheard. Actions like yours can only help to bring the issues to more general public awareness. Thank you and good luck." - Penny Porter, Treasurer Brighton and Hove Palestine Solidarity Campaign

"It is wrong that:

In Gaza , children,
you learn that the sky kills
and that houses hurt.
You learn that your blanket is smoke
and breakfast is dirt.

You learn that cars do somersaults
clothes turn red,
friends become statues,
bakers don't sell bread.

You learn that the night is a gun,
that toys burn
breath can stop,
it could be your turn.

You learn:
if they send you fire
they couldn't guess:
not just the soldier dies -
it's you and the rest.

Nowhere to run,
nowhere to go,
nowhere to hide
in the home you know.

You learn
that death isn't life,
that air isn't bread,
the land is for all.
You have the right to be
Not Dead.
You have the right to be
Not Dead.
You have the right to be
Not Dead.

Michael Rosen

It is right that you occupy against this wrong. Thankyou"
Alan Miller Lecturer University of St Andrews