Over a hundred students walked out of their lectures this morning to call for a ceasefireFelix Armstrong for Varsity

Around two hundred students walked out of lectures in a pro-Palestinian protest earlier today.

Students boycotted teaching, filing out of lecture halls in keffiyehs and holding Palestine flags, to do a sit-in at Sidgwick Site, where they faced a small counter-protest.

On one side, a crowd of pro-Palestinian students chanted “Free, Free Palestine”. Across from them, a small group of Jewish students held images of Israelis taken by Hamas on October 7th, with one student shouting “Free the Hostages”.

Lecture boycotters are demanding that the University end “research, commercial and institutional partnerships with Israel” and divest from “weapons manufacturers which arm Israel’s genocide in Gaza”.

This comes after the Palestine Society (PalSoc) recently called the University “institutionally complicit in genocide” and claimed that the Vice-Chancellor failed to “seriously engage” with demands from 1,600 students and staff to sever financial ties with Israel.

Felix Armstrong for Varsity

Pro-Palestinian students at the sit-in widely referenced the precedent set by Cambridge’s removal of financial ties to the Russian Federation after the invasion of Ukraine last year.

Imaan Malik, a Muslim student from Fitzwilliam College, told Varsity that the disparity between the University’s responses to both situations was “disgraceful”, while another student said it showed the Vice-Chancellor to be a “racist”.

One Palestinian student said the scale of the lecture boycott “makes clear where the majority of the student body stands” and promised not to “allow business to go on as usual” while “our institutions remain complicit in thousands of Palestinian civilians being murdered”.

Israel has been conducting a retaliatory airstrike, siege, and ground invasion campaign on Gaza since 1,400 people were killed in the October 7th attacks by Hamas. Hamas is proscribed as a terrorist group by the UK government.

Since then, over 11,000 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza, including 4,500 children, and Israeli ground forces have now encircled Gaza City.

Those boycotting lectures also expressed disgust at the University’s public stance.

Pro-Palestinian students repeatedly brought up PalSoc’s condemnation of meetings with the Vice-Chancellor, which the society said culminated in the University refusing to “condemn Israel’s crimes against humanity” or “call for a ceasefire”.

Felix Armstrong for Varsity

The Vice-Chancellor meeting was organised after over 1,600 students and staff signed a letter demanding the University replace its official position of recognising the “loss of innocent lives in Israel” but only “impacts of escalating violence in Gaza” with an explicit “denunciation of inhumane measures imposed on Gaza by Israel”.

Sophia, a lecture boycotter from Fitzwilliam, described the University’s stance as “criminal”, stating it has “left her disillusioned with the institution”.

While the crowd of pro-Palestinian students chanted “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free”, counter-protesting Jewish students looked on.

Tani Volk, one of two Israeli students who co-authored a letter pressuring the University to condemn Hamas last month, said that while some of the lecture boycotters “were for the Palestinian people” there were others who were “just flat out against Israel, pro-Hamas, and antisemitic”.

Volk continued, stating that some pro-Palestinian students have been “cheering and calling for a violent uprising against Jews” and that “Jews and Israelis on campus have been made to feel unsafe”.

Towards the end of the sit-in, one member of the crowd shouted “From London to Gaza there’ll be an Intifada”, although none of the other lecture boycotters joined him.


Mountain View

Palestine Society says University 'complicit in genocide'

Phrases like “From the River to the Sea” have been the subject of controversy in the UK. Home Secretary Suella Braverman has instructed the police and crime commissioners that using the phrase could amount to a racially aggravated section 5 public order offence.

Another Jewish student who attended the counter-demonstration claimed that some students at the sit-in “refused to outright accept that Hamas is a terrorist organisation”.

However, she also said that she had “dialogue” with pro-Palestinian demonstrators who she believed “wanted peaceful coexistence between Palestinians and Jews in the land of Israel”.

“But we have to talk about our kidnapped hostages before we can even think about a ceasefire,” she added.

Divestment activism on campus has been gathering speed in recent days, with protesters repeating demands at a third week of large demonstrations. Meanwhile, isolated incidents of student activism have seen the words “Boycott Israel” projected onto King’s college chapel and a small group of masked protesters entering the Institute for Manufacturing, pushing for research partnerships to be cut.

The University has been approached for comment.