On Monday 20 October, Sheffield students disrupted the formal opening of the Sheffield University’s newest building, the Wave, to challenge the Deputy Vice Chancellor Gill Valentine on the University’s abhorrent involvement in the global arms trade and its financial complicity in Israel’s ongoing genocide in Palestine, Gaza, and the Occupied Territories.
Sheffield University: students in solidarity with Palestine
Whilst a rally of students stood outside the building as a public display of solidarity with the people of Palestine, a group of students attending the opening addressed questions to the Deputy Vice Chancellor, calling on her to answer for the University’s financial contracts with BAE Systems, GKN, Boeing, and several other arms manufacturers.
Subsequently, another group of individuals entered the building to disrupt the event entirely, to emphasize that the completion of an environmentally disastrous construction project, built on blood money, will never be a cause for celebration:
Sheffield University claims to be dedicated to ethical investments, environmental sustainability, and decolonisation of curriculums. However, a recent Freedom of Information (FOI) request revealed the University has received £72m in the last ten years from its partnerships with arms manufacturers – the same arms manufacturers who are neck-deep in the blood of Palestinian men, women, and children.
Furthermore, the University is directly involved in the development of arms used in the genocide of Palestinians.
Directly involved in genocide
According to the Technology Delivery Director at BAE Systems, ‘research conducted at Sheffield University was instrumental in the equipment, tooling and cutting parameters… for the F-35’ warplane. Through the research and development at the AMRC, our University is facilitating the efficiency of the ethnic cleansing of Palestine, a role it fulfills so well it has been recognised by a BAE Systems Chairman’s Award.
These arms manufacturers have caused misery and death in Yemen, in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Libya, and they continue to deliver death and destruction to Palestinian homes, schools, hospitals, religious buildings, and refugee camps. They have the blood of millions on their hands, and the Sheffield University shakes that hand without shame. The University is propping up neo-colonialism. They are profiting from genocide and imperialism. Their code of ethics does not apply to Palestine or anyone else in the global south.
Furthermore, the University leadership has failed to address the issue of Rabbi Zecharia Deutsch, a university chaplain who has travelled to Israel as an IDF reservist to join the Israeli genocide campaign. According to Holocaust survivor Dr. Gabor Maté, the IDF has been continuously carrying out the longest ethnic cleansing of the last two centuries.
Deutsch has posted videos to his students boasting of Israel’s actions, emphasizing the morality of their actions and the ‘evil’ of the Palestinian people that must be ‘destroyed’. He is actively participating in genocide, and releasing extremist content dehumanising Palestinians and normalising their persecution, and yet the University has not cut ties with this man. Nor has the University apologised for employing an IDF reservist in a pastoral role, thereby endangering the students and faculty they have a duty of care towards.
Propping-up climate wrecking
Finally, students dispute the University’s claims of commitment to tackling climate change and prioritising environmental sustainability.
These claims are contradicted by Sheffield University’s support for the global military industrial complex which is responsible for 6% of global carbon emissions. The ‘greenwashing’ of Sheffield University’s involvement in the global arms trade is a deliberate effort to disguise the ecocidal nature of colonialism. The Israeli occupation has been enacting a decades-long campaign of agricultural destruction, the environmental impact of which will be suffered for generations. Students call on the University to adopt a framework of climate justice that addresses the ecological devastation caused by colonial systems.
For as long as the University is guilty of genocide, students will call it out and refuse to be complicit.
Five demands of Sheffield University
The students’ demands are thus:
- Divest from all financial partnerships with arms manufacturers and other companies complicit in Israeli apartheid.
- Place an immediate halt on all ongoing AMRC research and development partnered with BAE Systems and Rolls-Royce.
- Support the call for an end to the occupation of Palestine and champion the voices of pro-Palestinian students and faculty.
- Sever all ties with Zecharia Deutsch and implement a screening policy which prohibits IDF reservists employment within the Sheffield University.
- Commit to environmental sustainability and climate justice for the most affected global populations rather than committing to simplistic emission reduction.
Featured image via Sheffield University students