I share your dismay at the recent events in Gaza and see your action as a political statement by each of you as citizens wishing to register that dismay.
I also share your wish that the University have an ethical investment policy and that no University funds be directly or inadvertently used to finance the actions of the Israeli army in Gaza. I believe this concern is also shared by our Acting Principal and that the clarifications you seek in this regard will be forthcoming.
In relation to your other demands, notably for condemnation of Israel’s actions, I would strongly advise you to add to your statement a condemnation of the Qassam rocket attacks on Israeli civilian areas by Hamas. There is of course no symmetry between the two, and you can state this clearly. Israel is the power, planned and took the offensive, using indiscriminate and disproportionate violence against a mostly unarmed and defenceless people who had been under siege for more than a year. I for one do not accept that the actions were precipitated solely by the need of self-defence nor that self-defence can justify them. Nonetheless, failure to mention the rockets leaves you vulnerable to the charge that you are indifferent to the deaths of Israeli civilians – which I am sure is untrue - even if these are so dramatically less in number than the Palestinian casualties.
I would also like to support you as students who are using this Occupation as part of your education. As the brilliant late Edward Said said, there is an urgent need for understanding on the part of both parties to this conflict. His paper `Bases for Co-existence’ is a strong statement to this effect. You could perhaps discuss it as part of the programme of events and discussions which are so dynamically and imaginatively part of what you are doing.
Above all, I would advise you never to forget that you are students, as indeed we all are – I certainly include myself here - and to use this occasion to educate yourselves as fully as possible about the complex history of this seemingly intractable and dreadful conflict which is having such a profound and deleterious effect on your lives and which is of such profound import for all of your futures.
With my very best wishes,
Professor of English
Teacher of `Palestine-Israel, Israel-Palestine: Politics and the Literary Imagination.’
Co-founder Independent Jewish Voices