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Members of the ‘Lancaster University Friends of Palestine Society’ took part in a demonstration in Alexandra Square on Friday of Week 7, to increase public awareness of human rights violations in Palestine. The demonstration featured a theatrical performance of the treatment of Palestinian students by Israeli soldiers. The event was part of the society’s wider ‘Right to Education Week’, itself part of a national scheme.
Student’s involved in the demonstration were armed and dressed in Israeli soldier camouflage. They dramatised attacks upon Palestinian students by tying up and pretending to harm other members of the society. The mocked up soldiers also stopped other university students, taking their ID’s and questioning them.
This commotion was accompanied by blindfolded students handing out leaflets to promote the ‘Right To Education Week’. Members of the society described the action as an opportunity to build awareness around international issues, discussing them with students and inviting them to sign a petition supporting the right to education in Palestine.
Speaking to SCAN, President of the ‘Friends of Palestine Society’, Jasmine Owens, considered the demonstration a success – “we were only in Alexandra Square for an hour but gained 61 signatures on the petition, it really helped increase awareness for the “Right To Education Week.” She went on to say that the most important part of the campaign was the interaction with other students. “People finding out about the society and what we do was an important aspect of it” and this “worked as numerous people who saw us spoke to us to find out how to get involved in the society.”
When contacted by SCAN the society’s publicity officer, Asma Hanslod, emphasised that the purpose of the ‘Right To Education Week’ was to “make as many people as possible aware of how Palestinians are treated.” She went on to add that “children are arrested and detained in the West Bank and this is one of the ways we attempt to gain support against these atrocities. We need to support their cause as activism is suppressed in Palestine by arresting children and denying them education.”
Owens added that she thought this the demonstration was “more peaceful than much of last year’s campaigning” but that it seemed to have of an “impact.” Last year, action included a large group of members of the society forcefully stopping students on the Spine. This infringements of their rights was accompanied by loud chanting, which Owens agreed “made students feel forced upon and frightened.” This more ‘peaceful’ action was described by members of the society’s exec as “a change of tact from previous attempts to spread the word”.
Alongside the ‘Right To Education Week’ campaign, the society has started campaigning outside Sainsbury’s in Lancaster on the first Saturday of each month. Their efforts are aimed at gaining signed petitions and supporting boycotts of Israeli products in supermarkets.
Members of the societies’ exec have expressed plans for numerous other campaigns in the near future. These will include a play, a photo exhibition and an ‘Israeli Apartheid Week’. More information will be available on the Society’s Facebook page in the coming weeks.