A group of 23 Jewish university workers have signed an open letter expressing support for the student encampments in support of the people of Palestine.

Students at several universities have set up tent villages on campuses as they call for an end to the war in Gaza, and for their institutions to divest from companies involved in Israel's occupation of both Gaza and the West Bank.

Last month Prime Minister Rishi Sunak summoned university vice-chancellors to Downing Street to urge them to “take personal responsibility” for protecting Jewish students.

The Conservative leader was accused of scaremongering and running the risk of inflaming an overwhelmingly peaceful situation, and in a letter published in The Herald today a group of Jewish university staff have expressed their support for students.

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In the letter they say: "We fully support the students involved in the Gaza solidarity encampments and their demands that the Universities concerned should immediately divest investments from any company involved in the Israeli military occupation, cut their ties with Israeli universities, and allocate resources to support Palestinian students and rebuild their severely damaged universities.

"We share the dismay and despair expressed by our students at the continued violence on the people of Gaza, their territory, institutions, lives, and livelihoods, and, coming from a group targeted and almost eliminated by genocide, we refuse to be associated to the genocidal violence inflicted on the Palestinian people. 

"Recent pronouncements by Rishi Sunak and recent talks between Universities UK and the Government seem to prepare for a crackdown on student-led encampments for solidarity with Palestine in the UK, all in the name of protection of free speech and against antisemitism. 

The Herald: Students at an encampment on the grounds of Cambridge University, protesting against the war in

"We condemn such blatant weaponization of antisemitism: treating antisemitism as a tool to oppress those standing against the current atrocities committed by the Israeli government defies reason and propriety. We say loudly and proudly: not in our name.

"We all identify equally as Jewish, but we have a range of views about politics in general and the State of Israel in particular. It is a simplistic and offensive stereotype to assume that we are all of one position or that any specific opinion is more ‘authentically’ Jewish than any other.

"It is profoundly wrong to assume that our views about Israel are tied to our Jewish identity – either coming from antisemites who hold us responsible for the acts of that State or from representatives of that State who presuppose our support and purport to speak in all our names."

Coll McCail, Stop The War Scotland’s Youth & Student Officer, said: “This is a welcome intervention from Jewish university staff in Scotland which shatters a number of myths perpetuated by those who seek to undermine and mischaracterise demonstrations in support of Palestine in Scotland and around the world. 

"Those who march for a ceasefire and pitch tents on University lawns are united by a common commitment to peace and justice. 

"Last week, police violently cracked down on Oxford University’s peaceful pro-Palestine encampment. This letter demonstrates the strength of the Pro-Palestine movement in light of such repression. 

"The UK Government – and their friends in the media – are wildly out of touch with those they represent. Intimidating students by bringing Police dogs to University campuses, as happened in Oxford, is their last resort to break our resolve. However, standing united with their staff, students are going nowhere.”

A hunger striker at the University of Edinburgh said: "I’m Jewish, and my ancestors were killed in the holocaust. My grandpa was a surviving member and the genocide now mimics a fair amount of the experiences they went through. I felt able to embody that strength and experience in my own way to use it for the current Palestine solidarity actions, for the hunger strike.

“There’s a day in Judaism every year which is called Yom Kippur, which is where people fast sundown to sundown. I personally haven’t fasted for a multitude of reasons. I’ve never wanted to restrict my food and so I found it very interesting that this was the first time I wanted to do a food restricting action. During the hunger strike it’s been a very religious experience for me as well.

"These are the values that, for me, Judaism is intertwined with.”