“Free Khalida Jarrar Library: SFU students occupy library to demand divestment, academic boycott

Yesterday, a broad coalition of Simon Fraser University (SFU) students took over the school’s downtown library during the postsecondary institution’s Board of Governors (BoG) meeting. 

In advance of the scheduled meeting, the BoG moved its proceedings online to avoid interfacing directly with students demanding accountability for SFU’s complicity in Israel’s genocide – the SFU Students for Justice in Palestine chapter previously disrupted the March 2024 meeting with the same demands.

This library occupation was planned to demonstrate the increasing urgency of the students’ divestment campaign as Israel expands its genocidal campaign to Rafah and Jabalia refugee camps. More than 35,000 Palestinian people have been killed by Israel’s attacks since October 2023.

“Why is my university investing in arms and violence?” asked Omri Haiven in a statement from the student occupiers. Haiven is enrolled in SFU’s School of Communication and a member of the university’s Independent Jewish Voices chapter. 

Through its endowment, SFU owns shares in BAE Systems, Booz Allen Hamilton, and CAE Inc., three war/military equipment companies with contracts in Israel and across the Global South.

“SFU needs to divest from Israel’s genocide and join global calls to end this violence now!” Haiven added.

The students renamed the library from Samuel and Frances Belzberg Library – the latter of whom penned a Zionist attack on a library employee in the National Post last December – to the “Free Khalida Jarrar Library.” Khalida Jarrar is a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council who has been arrested multiple times by the settler colony of Israel, most recently in December 2023.

Students in the occupation made speeches and held a teach-in about building community resistance. A solidarity rally was held outside of SFU’s downtown Vancouver campus for more than four hours

Despite ongoing pressure from SFU faculty and staff, the BoG had not added divestment to their agenda by the end of the meeting. During the occupation, students stated they are prepared to escalate their actions at future BoG meetings if divestment is not promised sooner.

Nearly 900 people from the SFU community have signed a petition for divestment, and the students outlined their specific demands in a separate statement on The Bind.

SFU students have also been supporting the People’s University Encampment for Gaza at UBC. The UBC group posted a “full endorsement” of the SFU action, showing growing solidarity between the student bodies against settler colonialism and calls for a Free Palestine.

“There is not a single university left in Gaza. Worse than even performing to appear neutral, SFU has not joined the formal academic boycott and continues to have ties with the universities that uphold Israel and therefore its genocidal violence,” said WeiChun Kua in the press release. Kua is an SFU alumni and was a Simon Fraser Student Society board member from 2020-2021. “This is a sinister political stance and shameful political position. SFU must cut ties and join the boycott of Israeli institutions, as well as the global calls to end the genocide now.”

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