HUNDREDS of staff at a university in Scotland have signed a letter demanding that the university sever ties with Israel, expressing solidarity with the pro-Palestine student encampment set up on campus grounds.

A total of 549 staff at the University of Edinburgh signed the letter, which was sent to senior management on Friday afternoon.

The letter expresses support for the student encampment set up at the university (pictured below) on Sunday, as well as demanding that the university takes “immediate emergency measures” to divest from any companies which are “complicit with Israel’s regime of apartheid and plausible genocide”.

The National: Students have set up an encampment at Edinburgh University calling for divestment from Israel

Staff from every college at the university are represented in the letter, in addition to multiple staff networks such as the Staff Pride Network and the Staff BAME Network, the largest Black, Asian and minority ethnic academic and professional staff network at the university.

Samer Abdelnour, one of the co-authors of the letter and a senior lecturer in the university’s business school, told The National that the university has not seen such widespread support for a single cause before, demonstrative of the strength of feeling of staff.

READ MORE: Downing Street issues statement on UK university Gaza encampments

Inspired by a global movement of solidarity which started in the USA, students set up an encampment in the university’s Old College as a means of holding the institution to account for its relationship with Israel.

Students have been camping since midday on Sunday, in addition to another encampment set up outside the Scottish Parliament in Holyrood two weeks ago (pictured below).

The National: Activists have set up camp outside Holyrood

They are calling on the university to divest entirely from companies tied to Israel, to denounce its historic involvement in Palestine and to provide scholarships to Palestinian students from Gaza.

The group behind the encampment – Edinburgh University Justice for Palestine Society (EUJPS) – believes that in the last year, the university has invested an additional £18 million in companies which are complicit in Israel’s war with Hamas.

READ MORE: Pressure to stop UK arms sales to Israel builds after Joe Biden warning

Some students have also started a hunger strike, as the university “urge[d] them to prioritise their health”.

As of Thursday evening, The National understands that the students are “in conversation” with the university’s principal and vice-chancellor, Sir Peter Mathieson.

The letter from staff echoes many of the same demands as the student encampment, placing particular emphasis on the university’s “historical legacy of colonial dispossession in Palestine”.

The National: Balfour

This is a reference to the role of the university’s former chancellor, Lord Balfour (above), in signing the Balfour Declaration in 1917, which facilitated the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine, essentially legitimising the land being taken away from the Palestinian people.

The staff letter comes as the university’s University and College Union (UCU) branch also wrote to principal Mathieson demanding the university divest from Israeli companies.

On Tuesday, Mathieson issued a statement which claimed “there are some inaccuracies in some of the assertions made” about the university’s investments, adding: “A university should also be a place where there is respect for the truth”.

Responding to the letter, a spokesperson for Edinburgh University told The National: “The continuing violence and loss of life in Palestine is deeply distressing and we understand the strength of feeling on this issue.

"We are listening to concerns relating to our investments and we have recently announced a University-wide consultation on our responsible investment policy to ensure it continues to align with our values. Read our full statement here."

Read the full letter below.

“We, members of staff of the University of Edinburgh, express our support for the Gaza solidarity encampment established by our students at Old College on the 5th of May 2024.

“In particular, we support the demand that our university immediately divests from any company directly involved and complicit with the dispossession of Palestinians living under Israeli military occupation; as well as from what the International Court of Justice, the highest United Nations judicial body, has acknowledged as prima facie plausible acts of genocide perpetrated by Israel against Palestinians as a national group.

“The devastation in Gaza is catastrophic and Israel has announced plans to invade Rafah, where more than 1.5 million Palestinians are sheltering after they were expelled from other areas of Gaza.

“Their homes, hospitals, fertility clinics, mosques, churches, bakeries, archives, and other essential infrastructure necessary for life and society to exist have been targeted and destroyed.

“University staff and students in Gaza have paid a terrifying price. Every one of Gaza's universities has been destroyed or damaged; three university presidents, at least 100 academics and thousands of students have been killed, many targeted for assassination with their entire families.

“This is an unprecedented intensification of a long pattern of scholasticide enacted by Israel over decades through systematic attacks against Palestinian education.

“As staff of an institution which has a direct historical legacy of colonial dispossession in Palestine—through the role that our former chancellor Arthur James Balfour played in 1917 with his declaration on Palestine, which institutionalised the denial of the right to national self-determination for Palestinians thus enabling their ongoing displacement, dispossession and colonial subjugation—we urge our leadership not to repeat the mistakes of our past chancellor and other institutional figures which have entangled our university to a legacy of colonial and imperial dispossession and slavery.

“We thus stand with our students who today urge our leadership to stop all investments in companies complicit with Israel’s regime of apartheid and plausible genocide, abiding by the principles of due diligence and the key reparative justice principle of cessation of harm/non-repetition.

“In our responsible divestment policies we make clear that we abide by UN standards and values—proudly claiming our high Principles of Responsible Investment (PRI) scores, largely based on UN standards.

“Further, our Sustainability and Social Responsibility Policy states clearly that we will ‘promote, protect and respect human rights through everything that we do’.

“We must make no exceptions for Palestine. We thus call on University leadership to immediately abide by the highest United Nations judicial body (ICJ) and its orders and terminate all investments that are complicit with acts of dispossession and destruction of Palestinians as a national group.

“And we call on university leadership to re-invest any profits that were made from our investments in or through complicit companies to support the reconstruction of the destroyed higher educational sector in Gaza and support Palestinian students.

“We urge our leadership to take immediate emergency measures and stop any use of university funds for un-ethical investments which violate international law, human rights and the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (in Palestine and elsewhere).”

The number of signatories is correct at the time of print.