Today, Wadham College Student Union joined Somerville College JCR, Balliol College JCR, and Lady Margaret Hall, amongst others, in releasing statements in solidarity with Palestine. 

The statement begins by saying “Wadham College SU stands in solidarity with the people of Palestine, acknowledging the horrific violence and systematic destruction that they have experienced.” It goes on to say that “the ongoing attacks against Palestinian people have been termed a genocide” which “The University of Oxford and Wadham College are financially contributing to.” The statement continues, saying that the university is complicit by “ignoring demands to divest from Israeli occupation and settler colonialism.” Wadham SU also stated they “support the demands of the Oxford Action for Palestine (OA4P) encampment” and proclaim demands of their own, directed at both the University of Oxford and Wadham College. Wadham SU demands that Wadham, as well as Oxford University, disclose University-wide assets and cease to bank with Barclays. They also demand divestment and boycotting from Israeli genocide, apartheid and occupation; overhauling the University Investment Policy, and supporting the Palestinian-led rebuilding of education in Gaza. The statement urges both the college and the university to “proactively engage in negotiations” and calls on the university to “condemn the recent antisemitic abuse directed at participants in a vigil hosted by the OA4P encampment.” 

The Oxford Blue spoke to Anna Serafeimidou, a Wadham first year student who was one of the proposers of the motion. Serafeimidou said she was “very surprised that it has taken this long (7 months) for most Oxford college JCRs to begin publishing statements in solidarity with Palestinian people.” She said “until recently, [she believed] that our power as students and as college student bodies was quite limited” but that “the presence of the Oxford Action for Palestine (OA4P) encampment made [her] rethink a lot of these preconceptions.” “Unfortunately, we live in a world where money is king,” she went on to say, “the reality is that our tuition fees go on to fund genocide in Palestine, and as students I don’t believe we should be tolerating this any longer.” 

In regards to the process of writing the statement, Serafeimidou said the “pushback was much bigger than [she] imagined,” and that it “lengthened the Wadham SU process from a meeting lasting a couple of hours to a 5-day process, consisting of two meetings and 4 working group sessions.” “Given Wadham’s progressive reputation,” she said, “I expected us to be spearheading the release of statements like these, which sadly was not the case.” She went on to say, “the working group aimed to overcome these issues, and included people from minority groups who may be affected more deeply by the conflict in Gaza; 4 of the 10 working group members were Jewish, for instance” but lamented the lack of Palestinian representation in Wadham. 

Serafeimidou ended by saying she was “really pleased with what [they] have put out, and with the engagement of Wadham students with the motion” and that she “would encourage every Oxford student to get involved with these statements.” On the issue as a whole, she said “the University’s silence on this genocide is incredibly disappointing, especially given explicit demands both from JCR motions and the OA4P encampment to acknowledge this issue, disclose finances and divest from companies which fund Israeli violence in Gaza, whether this investment be direct or indirect.” 

The statement follows Somerville College JCR’s statement on the 3rd of May supporting Palestine. This follows Somerville College MCR’s statement on the 15th of January. The JCr write “we would like to affirm our unequivocal support for the people of Palestine and wholeheartedly condemn the current genocide being carried out by the Israeli government in Gaza.” The statement goes on to call for “an immediate, permanent ceasefire” and for “the Israeli government to restore access to food, water and power in the Gaza Strip.” It also “calls for the release of the almost 10,000 Palestinian hostages currently held in Israeli prisons (…) and the return of the 130 Israeli hostages still held in Gaza.” They write that “the genocide must be understood within the context of the 75 years of occupation and settler colonisation which has led to the denial of Palestinian right to self determination.” Reporting that they “recognise and wholeheartedly support Palestinians’ right to statehood and self determination.” Somerville JCR end by calling on “other Common Rooms, student societies, Colleges and the wider University to publicly stand in solidarity with Palestinians” as well as “call[ing] on the University of Oxford to cut ties with arms dealers complicit in the current ongoing genocide.” 

Following this, Somerville JCR released a statement in support of Oxford Action For Palestine’s ‘Liberated Zone.’ They say that their support for the encampment comes from their “solidarity with the Palestinian struggle for liberation.” They continue by saying “The University of Oxford has blood on its hands, and we reject the notion that we have to be okay with the University funding genocide with our tuition fees.” The statement classifies Israel as perpetrating a “campaign of scholasticide” and “condemn[s] the University for its complicity.” They go on to “reiterate the current demands of Oxford Action for Palestine.” 

Balliol College JCR released a similar statement two days ago, stating “its support for the Liberated Zone in solidarity with Gaza” and “their peaceful and non-violent methods in protesting the murdering of Palestinian civilians by the IDF.” They go on to say that they ‘hope that all of the demands set out by the encampment, including divestment (…) are met by Oxford University as soon as possible.” The statement reads “students of Balliol, as well as students of Oxford University, should be able to know where their fees are being sent by the University and change if they feel that they are indirectly funding something immoral. Oxford University’s funding of Israeli-linked companies (…) helping to murder innocent civilians in Gaza, constitutes such immorality.” 

Lady Margaret Hall students likewise released an open letter on the 11th of May, expressing their “firm support for those of the encampment outside the Pitt Rivers Museum,” which has currently been signed by over 100 people. The letter “unequivocally condemned” the attacks of October 7th but said that “no such attacks, however, can ever motivate to justify genocide.” It made “particular note of the active targeting and murder of at least 94 prominent academics by the IDF, and systematic destruction of every university in the Gaza Strip” calling on the Vice-chancellor to “unequivocally condemn” it. Whilst “echo[ing] the calls already made to the University and its constituent colleges by Oxford Action for Palestine,” the letter highlighted the University’s relationship with Barclays Bank. It says that “Barclays Bank has increased the value of its shareholdings in nine companies known to supply arms to the Israeli military by over 55% since July 2022, in addition to an increased value of loans and underwriting of 54.5% to said companies.” The letter ends by saying “we firmly emphasise our opposition to discrimination in all of its forms,” particularly those who are using “condemnation of the Israeli state to advance their own antisemitic agendas.”