University agrees to cancel Israeli water contract after sit-in

Published Date: 06 February 2009


A STUDENT sit-in at a Scottish university ended peacefully last night, after the university authorities agreed to cancel their contract with an Israeli water company.

The 40 students, led by the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign, occupied the foyer of Strathclyde University’s McCance building, to demand that it sever all links with Israeli organisations following the bombing of the Gaza Strip.

The students presented the university management with a list of demands, which included: the cancellation of a contract with Eden Springs, its main water cooler supplier; the severing of funding links with arms manufacturer BAE systems; the issuing of a statement condemning the Israeli action in Palestine last month; the creation of a scholarship programme for Palestinian students at Strathclyde; and a pledge of solidarity for the Islamic University of Gaza.

Students also asked that the university oppose Israeli academics who promote military research, to condemn the BBC for not showing the Disasters Emergency Committee’s Gaza appeal and to broadcast the appeal on campus as part of a fundraising day.

Following negotiations yesterday afternoon, agreement was reached on a number of points: the contract with Eden Spring would be cancelled, a scholarship programme would be established for Palestinian students and the DEC appeal would be broadcast on the campus.

Danny McGregor, speaking on behalf of the protesters, said: “We are happy with what we have achieved. We were in there for 24 hours and we feel we made a lot of progress.

“What we’ve managed to get so far is fantastic, but it’s just the start. We couldn’t get what we wanted with BAE, but there’s a massive movement among the students against their presence here, and we’re going to take this forward to the Students’ Representative Council.”

He added that in future students were willing to carry out more sit-ins to achieve their demands.

A spokeswoman for the university said they recognised the students right to protest and had been “content for them to demonstrate peacefully”.

Dr Peter West, the secretary to the university, said of the agreement: “The university expresses its deep concern about the plight of the people of Gaza. We are particularly aware that the infrastructure of higher education has been damaged, making it particularly difficult for Palestinian students to pursue their studies.

“The university has made a number of undertakings, including supporting its students in their effort to raise funds for the rebuilding of Gaza. In addition, it will create a scholarship scheme for Palestinian students, similar to the scheme already offered to students from Rwanda.”

Dr West added: It will encourage universities across Scotland to take part in this scheme.”

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