UBC students establish encampment in solidarity with Palestine

They demand the university divests funds from Israel

a barricaded encampment at UBC on the MacInnes field, with signs and flags in solidarity with Palestine
PHOTO: Amirul Anirban / The Peak

By: Yasmin Hassan, Staff Writer

On Monday, April 29, members of the UBC community set up an encampment at their MacInnes Field to protest the university’s lack of action for Palestine. The camp amassed “about 100 people and 75 tents,” with signs posted around the area like “Free Gaza” and “Palestine Forever.” The encampment and protest followed after the People’s University, a student-led movement for Palestinian liberation, presented their demands to the university. The demands included divestment from Israeli companies and academic boycotts of Israeli universities and institutions who are “complicit in the Israeli apartheid regime and in the oppression and genocide of the Palestinians.” 

Following the Israeli occupation of Palestine in 1948, Palestinians have been subject to violence at the hands of Israeli forces, being systematically displaced, harmed, and killed. In retaliation to the Gaza-based militant organization Hamas’ attack, Israel launched attacks on Palestinian civilians. This has been condemned internationally as a genocide by the UN, with over 36,100 Palestinian civilians killed at time of writing. 

Many university campuses across Canada and the US are hosting encampments in solidarity with Palestine. The University of Calgary, McGill, University of Alberta, and UBC are just a few, all calling for a ceasefire and urging a similar set of demands to their respective institutions. 

The People’s University continues to urge the university to divest from “companies complicit in Palestinian human rights violations,” despite a reaffirmation from UBC president Benoit-Antoine Bacon that they will not support the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement. Companies such as Caterpillar, Hewlett Packard, and Lockheed Martin are some of which UBC holds shares in, which provide armored bulldozers, computer hardware, aircraft and ground artillery to Israel. 

In a statement, Faculty for Palestine SFU members pledged “support for the demands of the People’s University of Gaza at UBC and adherence to the community agreements” and that “faculty solidarity with student activism is entirely consistent with SFU’s mission of research, pedagogy, dialogue and debate in an atmosphere of social justice and liberation.” SFU also owns shares in war contractors and weapon manufacturers aiding the Palestinian genocide, such as CAE, Booz allen Hamilton, and BAE Systems. Faculty for Palestine SFU are a part of a broader network of university faculty “taking root in and across over 130 universities in North America,” and they continue to call on SFU to divest from military companies.

“Our immediate concern is for the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians currently facing full-scale military invasion in Rafah, and all Palestinians facing escalating violence and genocide at the hands of the Israeli military,” Anna Swanson, a member of Independent Jewish Voices said. With threats of intervention from university administrators and a growing police presence on campuses, Swanson stated, “If in their effort to protect one specific group of students in isolation, universities resort to policies and legislation that chill or silence freedom of expression, this could hurt the entire academic community.” 

Encampments are just one of the many ways students are taking action. Numerous student communities and organizations have responded to their institutions’ inaction through different forms of protests, marches, and rallies. A list of camp rules from the UBC encampment states, “We commit to grounding ourselves in the cause of this encampment: solidarity with Gaza and the Palestinian people who are facing genocide. We reject co-optations and centering of anyone but the people of Palestine.” 

This is a developing story that The Peak will continue to cover. 

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