Friday, 29 May 2009

Direct Action gets the Goods!

Newcastle University Gaza Solidarity Campaign

Direct Action Gets The Goods!
The NUGSC sees real results following direct action for Gaza.

On 21st May, members of the Newcastle University Gaza Solidarity Campaign (NUGSC) met with members of senior management for the second time since ending their occupation of the Fine Art building in solidarity with Palestinian people (in March 2009). This second meeting has secured the NUGSC’s demands on a number of issues. Senior management have made significant concessions, provided helpful advice and support and agreed that such actions in support of Palestine on behalf of the University would not have happened without the NUGSC’s decision to take direct action. Registrar John Hogan said during the meeting that Newcastle’s action on the Palestine issue would have come ‘nowhere near’ to where it is now had it not been for the occupation. Although not condoning the NUGSC’s actions, senior management have expressed the University’s general support for our aims and motivations.

The most significant developments now are as follows:

Newcastle University has issued a public statement in solidarity with the people of Gaza. It reads “(Newcastle University) supports the call made by Universities UK for an end to the conflict in and beyond Gaza[1] The statement is not as strong as the NUGSC had hoped, but the fact that it exists is a starting point for ongoing relations between senior management and the campaign group and a significant achievement of the occupation. Newcastle University’s website also expresses admiration for the occupation being ‘well organized and entirely peaceful’ [2]

Newcastle University has agreed to fund a trip to Palestine, providing both the Universities’ aims and educational objectives as well as the NUGSC’s political motivations are taken into account. Pro Vice Chancellor for Engagement Paul Younger is personally to contact his colleagues in the West Bank to help organise the trip to the occupied territories to assess how best Newcastle University can help academic institutions in Palestine (including sending aid, or providing a scholarship programme) and how the NUGSC can best support students there. Senior management is prepared to meet with the NUGSC regularly in the new academic year to make plans. The NUGSC will now try to get in touch with students in Gaza, the West Bank and also Israel to make links with groups opposed to the occupation and express solidarity.

Newcastle University has completely removed the barriers to political activism that were part of the reason that the NUGSC’s occupation was necessary[3][3]. There is now no time limit on giving notice for political activism (previously 10 days notice was required) within the law or organizing meetings – Registrar John Hogan conceded in the meeting with the NUGSC that 'it is your campus as much as mine after all'. John Hogan also expressed that ‘offence’ alone was not a legitimate condition for denying the right to political expression on campus. The NUGSC see this as one of the major achievements of the occupation so far and one that goes far beyond the Gaza Solidarity Campaign alone.

The campaign for arms trade disinvestment continues, with support of key members of senior management.[4][4] The NUGSC is compiling a ‘dossier’ of evidence and ethical guidelines on disinvestment from the arms trade and the reasons Newcastle University should adopt an ethical investment policy which does not support arms companies. Senior management, especially Paul Younger (Pro Vice Chancellor for Engagement) is very supportive of the campaign and the University has promised to facilitate negotiations between representatives of the NUGSC and the Universities Executive Board which will be necessary for the campaign to progress to the Finance Committee. Senior management is currently looking at the costs and procedure involved to ‘ethically screen’ existing investments. The NUGSC have collected over 450 signatures on campus against the University’s arms trade investments – the campaign goes under the name of NUCAAT (Newcastle University Campaign Against Arms Trade)[5][5]


Newcastle University students occupied the Fine Art Building on campus at 3:30pm on 10th March in solidarity with the people of Gaza and the other student occupations nation-wide. The occupation was entirely peaceful and well organised. Despite the NUGSC allowing two lectures to go ahead in the occupied space (and expressing the want for education to continue as normal) and University proceeded to cancel lectures in the Fine Art building, which disrupted education considerably. The NUGSC left the occupation after 28 hours when promised meaningful negotiations with Senior Management on the following demands:
- Newcastle University to issue a public statement expressing concern for the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and supporting call to an end of the Israeli military occupation.
- Newcastle University disinvest from the Arms Trade and adopts an ethical investment policy.
- Newcastle University supports the Newcastle University Gaza Solidarity Campaign’s coming projects of a) collecting computers, software, books etc for the Islamic University of Gaza (IUG) and b) the visit of a student delegation from Newcastle University to IUG to establish their needs, c) the ensuing student projects to follow up on those needs, d) developing an ethical investment and trade policy with respect to Israel, and e) publicising the Disaster and Emergency Committee’s appeal for aid.
- Newcastle University supports new and ongoing academic collaborations with IUG, including distance education tools to link University of Newcastle Students and IUG students.
-Newcastle University reviews the rules and regulations that make political activism in a variety of channels difficult. This includes leafleting, flyers, posters, and meetings.
The NUGSC uses Facebook and a blog to contact supporters and organise meetings etc. The NUGSC tries to meet every two weeks on campus to plan future activities and discuss the ongoing campaign. The NUGSC has also hosted two speaker meetings on campus, including one with Tamar Katz, a young Israeli refusenik who has been jailed for refusing to serve with the Israeli military (IDF).

If you have queries regarding this press release, or would like to speak to a member of the NUGSC please contact us:

[1][1] ”[1][1] see Newcastle University website for full text

[2][2] Full text on Newcastle University website
[3][3] Before entering occupation, the NUGSC had tried to campaign on campus (handing out leaflets, petitioning etc) and faced big problems from security and management. The rules previous to occupation were that 10 days notice was needed for any activity on campus and even after 10 days any ‘political’ activism could be denied permission on the grounds of offence. This significantly reduced the ability to organise and protest on campus, to the extent that the occupation was a more promising tactic for getting our message across to management and also fellow students.
[4][4] Newcastle University currently invests £421,653 (2.42% annually) in the Arms Industry (GKN, BAE Systems, Rolls Royce and Smiths). Opposition to financial support of the arms industry is not based on simple pacifism, but on a deep discomfort at the way the arms trade currently operates, and a belief that, far from enhancing security, it often escalates global conflict and human rights abuses. The NUGSC believes that a college or university that has no ethical investment policy does not hold a neutral position.
[5][5] – Facebook group for NUCAAT with over 350 members and link to the online petition.

1 comment:

  1. Very impressive - great work in keeping up the pressure and getting results. And arms disinvestment is clearly going to be a big campaigning priority next term.

    I hope a number of students can get along to the next Palestine Solidarity Campaign meeting in Newcastle to talk about this - the meeting's Monday 8 June at 7pm, Muslim Welfare House.