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Occupation protesters claim success
February 2, 2009 by The students of the occupation
On Tuesday 27th, after a long, tiring week of sleeping on the floor of Arts A2, the occupation in response to the recent events in Gaza finally accomplished its aims of recognition and support from the University of Sussex for the people of Palestine.
Our demands were similar to those won by other academic institutions within the UK in previous weeks and designed to take advantage of the power and resources that we possess as students of a British academic institution to achieve real and immediate benefits for the oppressed Palestinian people. Among the resolutions accomplished was the creation of a scholarship fund to bring Palestinian students, many of whose universities have been bombed to oblivion with the aid of the UK government, over to Sussex to study. Another was for the university to divest its funds from arms companies that support the Israeli war machine, and thus to stop profiting from death in our names. Another achievement was the establishment of a scheme to pass on surplus computers, books and other educational equipment to Palestinian universities. These measures will make a real and concrete difference to some of the victims of the Israeli occupation.
Comments have been made about our methods. Some have asked us if it was really necessary to go to such extremes of an occupation: why not just lobby the management, for example? We answer that such methods simply have not worked. For five decades Palestinians have suffered whilst their geographical and cultural identity has been systematically eroded. And for three weeks the Israeli military has engaged in the massacre of 1300 Palestinian people, whilst the world sighed and expressed regret. It was always our intention to exert the maximum pressure with the minimum disruption. Lectures were allowed to continue as normal, with a two-minute explanation of our presence and cause at the beginning of each lecture, and only with the permission of the lecturer.
We organised by the most democratic means possible. Individuals organised themselves voluntarily into working groups, the composition of which was always fluid and open. No one group or faction exerted their will over others and the general atmosphere was always one of hard work and cooperation. Consistent efforts were made to engage the wider student population through flyering, dialogue, an info-stall outside Arts A2, daily open-access general meetings, and several organised discussions and educational events. Structures were agreed to allow everyone’s voice to be heard, including the introduction of a safer spaces policy, a dedicated welfare team, and a decision-making structure that valued the dialogue and consensus of everyone involved. We thank everyone who came and made a contribution and all those who expressed their support by signing the petition and by other means.
We came together from a varied spectrum of cultural and political backgrounds and represented many diverse perspectives. Many came with ideas based on ideological beliefs and theoretical understandings of the conflict, but many came with simply a horror of what they had seen (and what they had not seen) on the news. What brought us together was a determination to do what was in our power to help. We know that it’s a drop in the ocean. We know that it is not going to end the conflict. But it is what we can do. And when you can do something, anything, it is a crime to do nothing.