Conversation on campus has been brewing in recent weeks, following the unannounced Hamas attack on Israel on October 7. Palestinian and Jewish students have been mourning the losses, calling for support and raising open concerns with the University.
Hamas is a Palestinian militant organisation and the majority political party in the Parliament. On the morning of October 7, it took Israel by surprise in a coordinated attack, leaving a trail of destruction of thousands of deaths and taking more than 100 hostages.
Israel promptly retaliated, and the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), which ranks amongst the world’s best armies, attacked Gaza in what has been dubbed “the most intense bombardment it has ever seen”. Israel launched a siege cutting electricity, water and food to the Gaza Strip, pushing it “into the abyss”, as the United Nations condemned.
Governments around the world have been swift in stating their support for Israel, as its citizens reeled from the shock of the attacks and the internet became flooded with accounts of the violence. UK foreign secretary James Cleverly said “The UK unequivocally condemns the horrific attacks by Hamas on Israeli civilians. The UK will always support Israel’s right to defend itself.”
While governments seem to be generally in solidarity, unequivocally in support of Israel, civil society is heavily polarised.
The Lebanese Islamist party and militant group Hezbollah, along with Iran, are among the few who have publicly expressed support for Hamas. In the UK, Hamas is a proscribed terrorist group and its supporters can be arrested.
While governments seem to be generally in solidarity, unequivocally in support of Israel, civil society is heavily polarised. Antisemitic attacks in London have spiked since last year’s figures. The first 2 weeks of October in 2022 saw 14 antisemitic incidents and 12 offences, while in the same period this year 105 incidents and 75 offences were recorded in the capital.
There has also been a rise in islamophobia compared to last year. In the same timeframe, last year there were 31 incidents and 34 offences, while this year the numbers rose to 58 incidents and 54 offences. Thousands of people attended a pro- Palestinian protest calling for a “Free Palestine” in London on Saturday, October 14, amidst reports of death and destruction in the Gaza Strip.
Historically, university campuses have been forward-thinking drivers of revolutions and discussion. United, Warwick students have notably organised protests and awareness campaigns for some of the most contentious issues the outside world has faced. The campus gathering place, the Piazza, has hosted campaigns over transgender issues, mishandling of sexual abuse, and the Free Palestine movement.
However, during the most recent Israel – Palestine conflict, divergent demands have been made of the University administration. In a statement, Warwick Vice-chancellor Stuart Croft said, “I send my heartfelt support to all those who have been affected by these appalling events.” Croft stated the University’s “zero-tolerance policy” for racism, discrimination, islamophobia and anti-semitism.
Yet, students feel like this has not been enough. Warwick Action for Palestine, a group of “student activists who believe in Palestinian liberation through education, solidarity and direct action”, put out a statement in support of “Gaza, the martyrs and the resistance to this vile occupation”. The society expressed discontent with the “hypocrisy” of the University, who cut ties with Russian institutions following its invasion of Ukraine but never reacted to Israel’s “ongoing settler colonialism”.
Unfortunately, whilst we, international Palestinian students, battle this reality shock of not being accepted or safe anywhere, we have also learned that our taxes are funding all of this.
– Third year Palestinian student
The statement continued: “In this crucial moment, when the resistance movement has reached a new stage, it is vital we stay steadfast and continue to raise the consciousness of all people across the University.”
A third year Palestinian student, who wished to stay anonymous, told The Boar “Unfortunately, whilst we, international Palestinian students, battle this reality shock of not being accepted or safe anywhere, we have also learned that our taxes are funding all of this.”
“We are supporting members from our ranks by amplifying their voices, and by boycotting any products that aid in the funding of Israel and the IDF, unfortunately that’s all we can do at the moment.”, they said.
The student reports being satisfied with Warwick’s choice to “remain neutral and support both sides”, calling it the “correct thing to do”. They are also pleased that people around on campus have been respectful, instead of being “aggressive and assertive”.
Ultimately, if they were to recommend one thing to the University, the student said a follow-up email to reassure affected students about mental health accessibility would be well-received.
Warwick Jewish Society, one of the “fastest growing Jewish societies in the UK” published a statement expressing “thoughts and prayers” with all those affected. The society stated its support for members and other Jewish people at the University and encouraged students in need of support to reach out to the exec or Rabbi Fishel.
Contacted by The Boar, Warwick Jewish Society said: “The Warwick Jewish society aims to maintain the safety of its members especially in these days where tensions are high. We are working closely with campus security and organisations including UJS, and CST, along with Rabbi Fishel to ensure of that. ”
Chloe, a third year student currently on a year abroad, said she has noticed a “massive lack of support from both non-Jewish friends and Warwick”.
There have been multiple anti-semitic attacks targeting Jewish people in the areas I live in
– Chloe, third year student
She is navigating, chronically refreshing for updates and understanding the complexity of the situation with the shocking news of the death of a former classmate. “I am just terrified to see a name I know come up again,” she said.
“I feel safer in Montreal than I would in London, as there have been multiple anti-semitic attacks targeting Jewish people in the areas I live in, so much so that Jewish schools have had to close due to fear of attacks.” she said.
There is a certain fear associated with expressing one’s adherence to the Palestinian cause. For example, while it is an official society registered with the Students’ Union, The Boar has learned that the executive of Warwick Action for Palestine is anonymous,”for safety concerns.”
Similarly, Stanford Daily, the daily newspaper at Stanford University, quoted a student that described how sharing pro-Palestine views at Stanford can bring one concerns of “repercussions and doxxing”.
Another third-year student told The Boar that they believe the differences in how media covers events in Gaza compared to Israel is “disgusting,” as are “the lies” spread by Joe Biden.
The US President has recently been slammed for walking back on a statement that he had seen “pictures of terrorists beheading children”. Later, the White House clarified the President had made the remarks based on reports from the news media and the Israeli government.
The student, who is also on a year abroad, said they found the emails from Stuart Croft and the SU “very inclusive and sweet,” to “whoever has been affected by the violence on both sides.”
The resilience of these pillars of campus will be tested in the coming weeks, and by resisting they will teach us a lesson for years to come.
Escalation in Gaza is quick and merciless, and the international community has big choices to make in how they distribute their support. But miles away from the piling rubble and amongst the crushing news cycle, some students affected have found solace and support from accommodating groups on campus. The resilience of these pillars of campus will be tested in the coming weeks, and by resisting they will teach us a lesson for years to come.
The contents of this article are sensitive to some readers.
If you or someone else you know are being affected, the Students’ Union is offering a number of support services:
The Students’ Union Advice Centre
The University’s Wellbeing Support Services
- Advice with extensions and mitigating circumstances
Report and Support is also available.