Scholars for Palestine UK: Urgent Call to End the War on Palestine

As Arab and Palestinian scholars in British universities, we issue this call in support of colleagues under attack in Palestine and the recent Unified Call for Justice and Freedom issued by Palestinian Higher Education institutions. We endorse and welcome the launch of the Scholars Against the War on Palestine (SAWP), and the call for an immediate, unconditional, and permanent ceasefire. 

We urge all academics in British universities to join us in opposing the targeted destruction of Palestinian universities in Gaza and the relentless assault on the wider Palestinian academic community. We stand opposed to Israel’s grave violations of Palestinian human rights and academic freedom, including the ongoing genocidal campaign in Gaza; military raids, armed attacks, and arbitrary arrest and detention of Palestinian students and staff at West Bank universities; and threats of suspension, expulsion, personal attacks and violence against Palestinians in Israeli universities. 

The systematic assault on the educational sector in Palestine is one dimension of Israel’s campaign against Palestinian civic and social infrastructure. It is part of an historic and ongoing project of ethnic cleansing and fragmentation that denies the Palestinian people their inalienable rights, including millions of Palestinians who are prevented from returning to their homeland. Israel’s attack on Palestinian education  contributes to a system of displacement and dispossession by attacking the cultural and intellectual life of the Palestinian people, by preventing them from living, thriving, studying, and teaching on their ancestral lands and excluding them from free and equal participation in the international academic community. As scholars, we vehemently oppose these actions, recognising that education is not only a fundamental human right but a crucial pillar for the preservation of identity, heritage, and civic life.  

British universities are directly complicit in the active destruction of Palestinian universities and the ongoing obstruction of access to education. British institutions and university pension funds invest millions of pounds in companies implicated in Israel’s military occupation, colonialism, and apartheid. This financial entanglement and the collaboration with arms companies that profit from the very onslaught against the Palestinian people raises critical questions about the role of our higher education institutions in perpetuating systems of oppression.

In the face of this complicity, staff and students have organised ‘walk outs’, teach-ins, and protests, whilst students’ unions and staff trade unions have expressed their solidarity with Palestinians both locally and nationally. This activism within our academic communities illustrates a commitment to ethical conduct and a refusal to be passive enablers of injustice. We must continue and escalate these actions. 

We draw inspiration from the long tradition of international solidarity in British higher education institutions, exemplified by the scholars, students and staff who campaigned against Apartheid in South Africa, championed the fight against racism in Britain, and took the ethical stand against war, from Vietnam to Iraq. This legacy fuels our conviction that as scholars, we must heed the call for action issued by our Palestinian colleagues. At this critical moment, we urge our colleagues in Britain to join us in responding to this call, and collectively affirm our commitment to realising our shared universal principles of justice and the unwavering pursuit of a world free from oppression and violence.

An active stance by British academics against these ongoing attacks is all the more urgent given Britain’s historic colonial and continuing material and political complicity in the dispossession of the Palestinian people. As such, we call on all academics in Britain to join our campaign and:

Step up the pressure to end the war on Gaza and join the international movement calling for an immediate, unconditional, and permanent ceasefire. 

End complicity in the arms trade: Work to uncover if your university has investments, contracts or cooperation agreements with weapons companies supplying Israel and organise to cancel them. Support the call for the USS and other university pension funds to divest from companies complicit in Israel’s crimes against the Palestinian people.

Stand up for the Palestinian right to education : Speak out against the destruction of the educational sector and restrictions on academic freedom in Palestine. Organise your institutions to take a stand. Demand an end to limitations on travel, research, and expression for Palestinian scholars and students. Advocate for the removal of barriers, such as checkpoints and travel restrictions, that impede academics’ and students' ability to attend classes, participate in research, and engage in academic activities. Support the right of international scholars to visit and collaborate with colleagues in Palestine.

Build academic links with Palestinian universities and academics: Establish initiatives to foster collaborative research initiatives to combat the international isolation of Palestinian higher education. Promote exchanges, joint projects, scholarship programmes and partnerships that contribute positively to the Palestinian educational sector. 

Don’t cross the Palestinian picket line: Support and adhere to academic boycotts aimed at institutions complicit in the violation of Palestinian rights. Refrain from participating in collaborations, conferences, or partnerships with institutions that support or contribute to the occupation.

Defend freedom of expression: Resist any attempts to stigmatise or silence staff and students at British universities engaged in research, speech, and actions on Palestine.