Eric Williams / Varsity

A Gazan student has condemned Cambridge University and its Vice-chancellor, Deborah Prentice, for anti-Palestinian “racism” and “silence” on “the suffering of the Palestinians”.

Sarah Ali, a Gazan PhD student, spoke out earlier today on the university’s “shameful” handling of events in Israel and Gaza, at the largest pro-Palestinian demonstration Cambridge has seen.

The University’s position has been under scrutiny since almost 1500 students and staff signed a letter condemning its failure to acknowledge the “slaughter of innocent Palestinians” and “denounce the inhumane measures imposed on Gaza by Israel”.

Cambridge’s public stance has been to acknowledge the “loss of innocent lives in Israel” but only the “impacts of escalating violence in Gaza.”

At the mention of the university’s statements, which have been criticised for their "passive" wording, crowds of around one thousand students and members of the public repeatedly shouted “Shame!”

Israel’s retaliatory airstrike campaign has been ongoing for three weeks, following the October 7th Hamas attacks.

Ground force operations were commenced in Gaza last night (27/10), with casualty figures still unknown due to the cutting off communication networks.

Ali described how she and six other Gazan students wrote to Vice-Chancellor Deborah Prentice ten days ago, but the VC “did not respond at all.”

“This was ten days ago”, she continued, stating “The numbers of Palestinians killed since then have almost doubled.”

Instead of a response from Vice-Chancellor Prentice, Ali said she was given one “useless” meeting with two Pro-Vice-Chancellors.

The Gazan PhD student also raised the University's lack of response to the “racist" comment made by a Divinity Professor earlier this month.

Professor James Orr, who was a key organiser of the controversial National Conservatism Conference in May, responded to a video of pro-Palestinian demonstrations in London, which showed Muslim protestors praying, by stating: “Import the Arab World, become the Arab World.”

The comment was condemned by Palestinian and Middle Eastern student societies as "dehumanising", and an academic in Orr’s own faculty said it was “unthinkable” that he could teach without discrimination.

However, the university and the Vice-Chancellor are yet to respond to the incident.


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“This is a Professor at Cambridge University. With increasing anti-Palestinian and Islamophobic incitement, Palestinian staff and students in Cambridge are not safe”, Ali told demonstrators.

“Why is it that such a respected institution as Cambridge cannot clearly denounce the horrific targeting of Palestinian academics, educators, students, schools and universities by Israel”, the Gazan student said.

She continued, questioning how the university can have “hundreds of specialists in Middle Eastern politics and history” and “entire departmental faculty seminars dedicated to decolonisation”, yet “did not consult a single expert to write a suitable statement condemning Israel… and supporting Palestinian staff and students.”

On Wednesday (25/10), Vice-Chancellor Deborah Prentice updated her position slightly, stating: “events in Palestine and Israel and the loss of innocent lives are extremely distressing.”