Apartheid Off Campus is a growing network of young activists across the United Kingdom, students leading the struggle to end their own universities’ complicity in the Israeli apartheid regime (hafrada, or “separateness” in Hebrew), or its colonisation of Palestine. Despite student organisations and societies across the UK having a proud history of fighting for social and environmental justice, from LGBT+ rights to student unions divesting from fossil fuel companies, British universities, as a whole, remain deeply complicit in Israel’s hafrada regime through their investments and institutional links.
Israel’s complex system of occupation, colonisation, militarisation and institutionalised structures of racial discrimination (through policies of segregation, imprisonment and racial profiling) amount to the crime of apartheid. Such a complex, oppressive system can only be sustained due to the financial and technological support of a swathe of international companies invested in Israel’s violations of international and human rights law.
British universities own shares in many of the institutions and companies that supply the so-called Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) with arms or “crowd-control” technologies, knowing they might used to oppress and segregate Palestinians. The list is wide-ranging: from Barclays to HSBC banks, from Caterpillar to JCB bulldozers, too many are willing to turn a profit off of other people’s suffering. Companies, like HP, oil the gears of apartheid through the sale and use of technologies and services that maintain racial profiling, surveillance and segregation.
A recent study carried out by activists for the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) and the Apartheid Off Campus (AOC) movement found that 117 UK universities invest nearly £500 million in companies complicit in the settlements in, and military occupation of, the Palestinian territories.
Due to the dire situation the international community now faces, students are once again required, even closer to the fore. Student unions and societies were – and will remain – a crucial component in the vanguard of struggles against ethnic and religious prejudice, as the historical assistance of the National Union of Students (NUS) in coordinating anti-South African apartheid protests sits in our collective memory.
University students are in a powerful position to campaign in support of the Palestinians, as well as against the structures of racism, by both challenging & exposing problematic links, and by pressurising their universities to divest from companies who share in the human rights abuses committed in Palestine, thus certifying their universities as hafrada-free.
Students across the country are achieving this through peaceful process, boycotting the events of Israeli academics and politicians who support the ongoing apartheid colonisation, and by educating staff and students on their universities’ involvement in the crimes amounting to hafrada, or policies of ethnic separation in the 21st century by a supposedly democratic state. Already, student activists have achieved victories from the successful boycott of Sabra Hummus at the University of Manchester in 2018, to Leeds being the first university in the UK to divest from companies complicit in Israeli apartheid in 2019. With over 25 active student groups across the country, the student movement for Palestine solidarity is truly growing and gaining strength.