Hundreds of UEA students and staff protested in support for Palestinians against Israel at the Square on the 25th May at 5pm.
Organized by the UEA Arab Society and UEA Palestinian Solidarity Society, speakers shared stories through a microphone in between shouts calling to free Palestine to an audience sat on the steps of the Square. The speakers came from various backgrounds; one from Jerusalem, one from Syria, some born in the UK with family in Israel, two Jewish speakers and others wishing to show solidarity.
The first speaker read out news and the current numbers on deaths, injuries, people displaced, and homes and schools destroyed. Others shared personal stories that had happened to them or other family members living in Israel, including family members being forcefully moved out their homes or seeing guns pointed in their faces when they were children.
“To Israel, we are not people. This is why we need solidarity, because pointing a gun at a child’s head should never be normalized” said one speaker, with another calling Gaza the “largest open air prison in the world today” and that “we will not be silent until Israel is held accountable for these atrocities.”
One speaker denounced the US’s response, saying: “The reason the US stands with Israel and their colonial present is because they can’t stand to face their own colonial history.”
Before thanking everyone for coming out and showing support, the speakers finished on the words: “We are against a terrorist state: we aren’t against any religion, we aren’t against any heritage or faith, we are against Israel.”
One of the speakers wrote an open letter to the VC which has now amassed over 400 signatures from UEA students and staff, calling for a divestment and boycott of “companies that are fuelling this catastrophe in Palestine on unarmed civilians.”
The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement was also mentioned by the speakers, which works to put financial pressure on Israel to comply with International law concerning the treatment of Palestinians.
Elly Page, a speaker who practices Judaism, said in their speech that “Jews are scared because of a rise in antisemitism, but it is not pro-Palestinian activism that is the problem; it is white supremacy, racism, and settler colonialism that is the problem. And we all have a duty to challenge it.”
Serene Shibli, the President of the UEA Palestinian Solidarity society, encouraged all those who wish to help Palestinians to boycott products that Israel profit from.
“We have solidarity with oppressed people. You can get your institution to boycott or you can boycott independently. It helped end the apartheid in South Africa. It would work if everyone made it work. People vote with their money, if we actively don’t put money towards Israeli goods then they will listen.”
She also encouraged social media activism, saying that “Israel has always been in control of the narrative in the Middle East. The Israeli government is scared of the bad press. They are scared because they can’t control the narrative.”
When asked about the ceasefire, she said “There isn’t a ceasefire. They are still arresting Palestinians. They are still enacting state sanctioned terrorism we can’t reach. There is still control happening. It is a ceasefire in name only. Ceasefire is useless where there is still state sanctioned terrorism.”
There was a light security presence, including a plainclothes security guard, and social distancing was adhered to. This demonstration follows another consisting of around a hundred demonstrators outside the Forum on the 22nd May.