A group of around 80 students gathered at Goldsmiths College for a pro-Palestinian rally on Wednesday, accusing the university’s senior management of “blatant hypocrisy” and demanding a formal statement denouncing Israel’s military response to the attack by Hamas on October 7.
Activists speaking at the protest compared the university’s October 2023 statement on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict with their February 2022 response to the war in Ukraine, in which they openly condemned the Russian invasion.
Socialist Appeal Activist, Joe Russell, addressed the rally saying: “We should apply as much pressure as we possibly can, to every institution, to make it absolutely clear that we do not give Israel the support to carry out this brutal retaliation. Goldsmiths have not made their position clear at all.”
Students at the rally organised by the Goldsmiths Marxist Society then delivered an open letter to the senior management offices, read out by first year music student Jahanara Naires.
“The hypocrisy of western imperialism is no shock to us. What is shocking, however, is Goldsmiths’ utter lack of stance. For a university which heralds itself as left-wing, advertises post-colonial and anti-imperial courses and being socially aware and engaged, to be so ambiguous in your stance and to not call for an end to Israeli imperialism, is a deep hypocrisy.”
She added: “How can this university stand for justice and not decry the injustices of the Israeli state? The question presented to you now, is where do you stand in the course of history?”
“Treating both sides as equal is clear support for the status-quo.”
A representative from Goldsmiths management acknowledged receipt of the letter and pledged to discuss the issue at a meeting next week.
Earlier this week, Goldsmiths Senior Management Team (SMT) issued a statement on the crisis stating that: “We deplore the traumas experienced by innocent people in Israel and Gaza and we call for an immediate de-escalation of the violence.”
“Goldsmiths must be a place where difficult conversations can happen with the support of the college to make sure they meet the bottom line of being lawful with regards to human rights, equality, freedom of speech and education,” it stated.
It added: “Within this, we have to guard against situations where feelings run so high that they lead to Antisemitic or Islamophobic acts.”
Metropolitan Police have reported a 650 per cent rise in anti-semitic incidents in the past week compared to this time last year. Last week, two Jewish Orthodox schools were vandalised in Stamford Hill.
The student rally took place amidst mounting concerns around free speech at universities. Last week, the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) suspended a number of students following a pro-Palestinian rally.
SOAS claimed the suspensions had nothing to do with the right to protest, but because “event and venue protocols were not followed”.