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‘Declare, disclose, denounce’: Students nationwide demand for universities to support Palestine [Web Exclusive]


Written By Evie Richardson (she/her) @evi3m4y | Contributing Reporter

“We, the next generation, are here to make the change, we are the people, the power.”  

This was one of the many statements echoed across Hikuwai Plaza yesterday afternoon, as students in Tāmaki Makaurau were joined by their peers across the motu, protesting in solidarity with civilians in Palestine under siege from the Israeli Defence Force. 

“Declare, disclose, denounce” were three demands echoed not only through voices, but through students' incentives for gathering at the protest. 

Students in Pōneke, Waikato, Ōtautahi and Ōtepoti were also demanding the same thing from their respective universities. 

National spokesperson for the protest, Hamza Belgacem, says part of yesterday’s aim was to bring together their demands in a unified manner towards all university vice-chancellors across the country. 

“[We want] the university to declare Palestine as an independent state, we also want the university to disclose and divest from any affiliations with Israel or any partnerships they might have in Israel, and finally we want the university to denounce any form of anti-semitism, islamophobia, and any other form of discrimination.” 

Speaking on behalf Tītahi Ki Tua - the AUT Māori Student Association, student protester Mia Pivac Solomon (Te Whānau a Hinerupe, Ngāti Kahungunu) reiterated the same demands. 

“I’d really like for [AUT] to declare that Palestine is a sovereign state, I would like for [AUT] to divest, but also really recognise their students voices, recognise their staffs voices,” 

An AUT Law student and protest volunteer that wished to stay anonymous says he hopes that universities making statements can help shape public perceptions and influence government policies.

“[We want universities] to take a stand, and to actually put forward a statement that doesn’t just reflect our government’s stances currently as it is - which is very diplomatic in nature - but to actually put forward a statement that genuinely holds accountable Israel, at its roots.”

“I believe our universities have a special responsibility to stand against the oppression to fulfil the role they have accepted as the ‘critic and conscience of society’.” 

Belgacem agrees, saying universities are seen as centres of knowledge and people look up to the role models within them. 

“If all universities begin by accepting these demands, then it will pressure the government into accepting our demands as well. The government has a greater responsibility to uphold these values.” 

The rally hosted a number of speakers, including lecturers from Auckland University of Technology and the University of Auckland. 

Senior Law Lecturer at UOA, Dylan Asofo, was a key part of a recent open letter addressed to Vice-Chancellor, Dawn Freshwater, voicing university staff’s concerns about her decision to prohibit an encampment in solidarity with Palestine. 

Asofo took the stand yesterday to reiterate those concerns and the wider demands of the protest, challenging Freshwater to “be better than our American counterparts.” 

“[To] disclose and divest is the only way universities will live up to their reputations of respect, integrity and passion.” 

AUT Law Dean, Khylee Quince (Ngapuhi, Te Roroa, Ngati Porou, me Ngati Kahungungu) spoke of the legal implications Israel is currently facing from the International Court of Justice (ICJ). 

Referring to Israel’s attack as a genocide, she listed systemic blockages, limiting Palestinians access to housing, food, healthcare and electricity. 

The speech was met with chants of ‘shame’. A common iteration throughout the protest, a condemnation of Israel and its actions. 

The peaceful protest had a strong sense of togetherness, as students rallied to not only condemn Israel, but also AUT itself. 

Protestor and AUT student Lulu says that students play a crucial role in protest. 

“We are the future, and there are a lot of students. Compared to older adults, working professional individuals, we’re more protected. We’ve got nothing to lose.” 

Currently AUT is not known to have any specific investments or connections with Israel, however Belgacem says they are in the process of opening investigations on multiple universities. 

“We know that UOA has affiliations with Rocket Lab, a company that supports Israel. We’re also aware of UC having affiliations with Israel, 

“One of our demands is to disclose any partnerships they [universities] may have and make them really clear.” 

AUT has not released any public comment about yesterday's protest.


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