Listen to the audio here or on The White Pube podcast on APPLESPOTIFY & GOOGLE

Goldsmiths 4 Palestine 4eva


The art world loves to talk about doing things, but no one ever actually DOES anything. That’s what I meant to say. The art world cares more about performing the importance of thinking about doing things. The abstract conceptual critical quality of doing something and all the possibilities that doing can take in a multi sensory anti technological post-Adorno sense, or a gestalt-Kierkegaardian or Deleuzian era where the importance of doing has a hierarchical priority over undoing and unbecoming, in a caring sharing and permacultural economy of ecologies — like, obviously bullshit. The art world cares more about bullshit than about action. So even though up until this point right now it’s all been mediated by instagram, everytime I am reminded of your action, it brings me to tears because it makes me feel something I haven’t felt since 2019 — HOPE. Yeah, I was meant to say that. But I didn’t.

I was standing in the cream carpeted lobby of Goldsmiths CCA. It was the first time I’d ever visited and honestly, I was starting to forget the reasoning behind my self-imposed one person silent boycott. But there I was, actively remembering why as I stood on the clean cream carpet. I was trying to hold a megaphone in my right hand but it was so heavy — too heavy for my puny arms, and the carpet was so plush I was bouncing on my feet and the megaphone’s weight was pushing my entire self down into the exceptionally soft carpet. I moved and checked to see if I’d left a tennis shoe shaped imprint (I did). Someone rushed forward to hold the megaphone and — I’m not a natural public speaker. I forgot to say that it’s emotional to see people doing things in a world where doing things is not advisable or comfortable.

In the grand scheme of things, whether I said it or not, it didn’t matter. The group of people I was standing with in Goldsmiths CCA have been busy doing things regardless.

:) :) :) :)

On the 20th February this year, a group of staff and students called Goldsmiths for Palestine (G4P) began an occupation of the Professor Stuart Hall Building. It’s a large building overlooking the College Green, with triple decker floor to ceiling windows, lecture halls and classrooms, and a cafe. Since October 7th last year G4P had been holding rallies and making banners, doing walk outs and actions and writing letters to Goldsmiths’ Senior Management Team (SMT). The SMT were releasing weird meaningless statements, being vague and evasive about it all. G4P kept sending them letters and their list of demands, going back and forth but they kept getting ghosted. So, on 20th February 2024, Goldsmiths for Palestine walked into the Professor Stuart Hall building and they sat down. They said they were occupying the ground floor of the building and they weren’t going to leave until the SMT at the university actually addressed their demands.

G4P’s demands were: 1: All the statements about Gaza from the SMT so far had been about a ‘Middle East crisis’ — vague and weird. G4P wanted a statement calling for an immediate ceasefire and condemning the genocide. 2: Students had been experiencing intimidation at rallies, walkouts and actions. Emails were sent out and security were made to hand out leaflets that declared ‘protesting restrictions’. G4P wanted a recommitment to academic freedom and freedom of expression, and a commitment to uphold students’ right to protest – just to be sure everyone was clear on what was what. . 3: Considering that Israel was literally flattening Gaza to rubble, G4P wanted a commitment to support Palestinian educational infrastructure. Links and partnerships with Palestinian universities, exchange programs, efforts to preserve archives, and a re-establishment of scholarships for Palestinian students. 4: G4P wanted the SMT to provide full transparency with all current and future financial investments, to comply with Goldsmith’s own ethical investment policy. They also wanted BDS written into this ethical investment policy specifically — G4P had identified a £30k investment in a surveillance company called Nice Ltd, who had ‘in the past derived a large portion of its revenue from arms companies, Rafael and Elbit, which provide munitions to the Israeli military’. 5: In 2022 the university adopted the IHRA definition of anti-semitism. G4P wanted that reviewed and removed, to be replaced by the definition set out in the Jerusalem Declaration. The IHRA definition of anti-semitism has been widely criticised for silencing legitimate criticism of the state of Israel and its human right’s record, by including those things in its illustrative examples of anti-semitism. The Jerusalem Declaration definition explicitly states that: support for Palestinian demands for justice and human rights, criticism of and opposition to Zionism as a form of nationalism or legitimate criticism of the state of Israel, and the phrase from the river to the sea do not constitute anti-semitism.

To be fair to them, Goldsmiths for Palestine were incredibly polite and reasonable considering the circumstances. Maybe occupation feels a bit drastic, I’m sure there are contexts where I’d agree with you on that. But the SMT were ghosting them! Ignoring the letters and emails so — what are you meant to do? They slipped into the building, sat down and declared the occupation. Within three hours, the elusive Senior Management Team materialised. Very funny of them. G4P repeated themselves: UNLESS YOU ADDRESS OUR DEMANDS, WE’RE NOT LEAVING.

They were there for 5 weeks. After 2 and a half weeks of occupying the ground floor of the Stuart Hall building, Goldsmiths for Palestine took the upper floors and the rest of the building. They made a little community in the PSH building. They set up a kitchen and fed people, held teach-ins, talks, crits, [workshops], screenings, karaoke nights, they had a whole alternative para-university going on in the encampment. All an occupation means is that they were in there, in some capacity, at all times. Whether that’s 100 people during the day or 25 of them overnight.

The occupation meant classes had to be rearranged and there was disruption to the usual schedule of how things were run, but… good? Protest is mostly meant to be disruptive, right? It’s not comfortable or accommodating, it’s not even necessarily polite. You use the power you have to make the institution or the powers that be a little bit more likely to come to the table with you. And the Professor Stuart Hall building is literally named after a man who was deeply, in his very bones committed to oppposing racism, colonialism, nationalism in any form, a man who was an outspoken supporter of the Palestinian cause, an outspoken critic of Israel’s ongoing genocide in his own time. So, good.

The students were kicking up a stink and Senior Management were forced to the table because the stink was making them look like the bad guys. Like, doing something actually works, occupying the PSH building meant the SMT were forced to go into meetings with their own students and actually talk to them rather than avoid them. G4P went line by line through the demands with SMT representatives, drafting a new statement that addressed every single one in a way both sides were happy with. It got to the last day of Spring term, the 22nd March. Everyone thought an agreement had been reached, and expected that the joint statement could be released publicly by the end of the day. But when the SMT took a look at the statement their representatives had drafted, they rejected it.

On the 27th March, and after 37 days of occupation, the students left the Professor Stuart Hall building. They had come a long way, from Senior management ignoring them, they’d managed to negotiate verbal agreements that covered all their demands. But they couldn’t keep the occupation up over the Easter break, they needed to regroup and think of new ways to maintain the pressure. They thought the work they’d already done negotiating this far with management was in good faith. But ultimately, once they ended the occupation and left the PSH building, the SMT started backpedalling. They were rolling back on things they had proposed and had already committed to. The Warden started giving them the slip and flaked on meetings she had agreed to attend. In her absence, people started shrugging and making out like they couldn’t make agreements without her. Which is… an interesting dynamic considering how keen everyone was to appear in meetings and negotiate before. When you’re a group of students just trying to enact changes to or negotiate with the institution you’re a part of, that attitude from the SMT almost proves how necessary a little bit of leverage like an occupation or an encampment actually is.

On May 1st, Mayday, there was a walkout and a rally planned. What actually happened makes sense in the context — that now the occupation had ended, senior management were being evasive and flaky on making statements they’d proposed and agreed to before. It makes complete and absolute sense that the students who made up Goldsmiths for Palestine would walk into the library and drop banners, sit down again and say, SURPRISE! We’re not leaving until you give us a meeting! It makes sense, so that’s what they did — they emailed the SMT, the ones who’d been ghosting them, and said HELLO WE’VE TAKEN YOUR LIBRARY, WE DEMAND A MEETING NOW!!!, they posted it on instagram, and they waited. And it’s very funny because they didn’t have to wait that long.

I mean, it’s funny and it also makes a lot of sense. The students were in the library, a building that faces the main street, with banners up against the windows. Goldsmiths have had very public protests and occupations in their recent history — in 2019 Goldsmiths Anti-Racist Action occupied Deptford Town Hall for 137 days. I imagine the SMT were actually quite scared of something that public happening again. They replied and arranged a meeting for the next day. After the SMT had abandoned their commitments after the PSH occupation, G4P decided to stick it out in the library overnight.

The meeting resulted in a list of really significant SMT concessions to the students’ demands. As of May 3rd, G4P has won a commitment to undergraduate scholarships for Palestinian students, starting in 2025 — the only one of its kind in Britain – as well as postgraduate scholarships that start this September. Goldsmiths have agreed to write to the government and their local MP, calling for a ceasefire and support for rebuilding education in Gaza — this is really very impressive, given that the Warden (Frances Corner) is on a prestigious list of steering groups, task forces, boards, and APPGs (all-Party Parliamentary Groups) — just last week she was over in Downing Street to meet Rishi Sunak and the Education Secretary. They’ve agreed to review the protest guidelines they issued, and admitted the previous restrictions were a direct response to the Palestine protests. They’ve agreed to an independent review of the IHRA definition of anti-semitism, which is a really impressive and important win for G4P. They’ve agreed to rename the occupied lecture theatre in the Professor Stuart Hall building after Shireen Abu-Akleh — a Palestinian journalist who was literally wearing her blue press vest when she was shot in the head and murdered by the IDF in 2022. She was covering an Israeli raid on the Jenin refugee camp in the occupied West Bank for Al Jazeera, an investigation by Forensic Architecture found that she was denied medical treatment after she was shot. Her family are still waiting for justice, and the case has been referred to the ICC.

These are all enormous wins. The negotiations are still ongoing and Goldsmiths’ SMT have been meeting G4P every week to give updates on where each commitment is at. But the win I’m most interested in is the one regarding divestment. Goldsmiths have agreed to a new ethical investment policy, and a review of their fund manager. Which brings us bang up to date, to me standing on the exceptionally plush cream carpet at Goldsmiths CCA. Because while I forgot to say that it was emotional to see people doing things in a world where doing things is not advisable or comfortable. I did remember to say something that everyone in the room already knew.

Because I think that’s the reason I’d never been to Goldsmiths CCA before then, the mysterious and half-forgotten reasoning behind my silent boycott. One of Goldsmith’s CCA’s ‘MAJOR BENEFACTORS’, listed on their website and with a whole gallery on the first floor of CCA named after them: Zak and Candida Gertler.

Candida Gertler is the co-founder, co-Director and Trustee of Outset Contemporary Art Fund. Her and her husband Zak Gertler are also close personal family friends of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. They hosted Netanyahu’s 70th birthday party at their home in Tel Aviv. Netanyahu’s wife, Sarah Netanyahu, attended their son, Raphael Gertler’s wedding in London last year. Candida leads fundraising efforts for the Frieze Art Fair Special Acquisitions Fund, which buys artworks to donate to the Tate Collection. Candida and Zak Gertler have contributed to this private philanthropic fund. The Gertlers have also donated to Netanyahu’s political campaign and JNF UK. JNF has been funding Israel’s forcible appropriation of land from Palestinians since the Nakba in 1948. JNF provides funds to the OR movement, an organisation involved in constructing an illegal settlement called Hiran to replace the Palestinian village of Umm-al-Hiran. They’ve also supported the illegal settlement of Sansana, a village in the occupied West Bank. A reminder that Israeli settlements in the West Bank are in direct violation of international law, please see Article 49 of the 4th Geneva Convention.

Outset arts charity has had an Israeli branch since 2008. This branch has connections with the Bezalel Academy of Arts, who operate student accommodation on occupied land in East Jerusalem. They also, alongside Shenkar College of Tel Aviv, who Outset are also connected with, are actively fixing / making military equipment for the IDF in programmes launched from the 7th October. On their website, Shenkar College have described this as ‘enlisting’ in the war against Palestine. Outset also banks with Barclays, who are bankrolling Israel’s genocidal assault on Palestinians. Boycotting Barclays is currently a core target of the BDS movement, Palestine Solidarity Campaign UK found that Barclays holds over £1 billion in shares, and provides over £3 billion in loans and underwriting to 9 companies whose weapons, components, and military technology are being used by Israel in its attacks on Palestinians.

It’s important for me to mention this as an art critic generally. But it’s also important for me to mention this to you now, in relation to the occupation of Goldsmiths. Because Candida Gertler is a holder of an honorary fellowship from Goldsmiths, awarded in 2023. As a result of G4P’s occupation of the PSH building and the Library, Goldsmiths have agreed to review Candida Gertler’s honorary fellowship.

The negotiations are ongoing, and Goldsmith’s SMT have a lot more to answer for, commit to and actually actively change — especially regarding divestment strategies for their investment portfolio. But G4P have won and won and won, bit by bit they have chipped away at something enormous. I wanted to give that space on a Sunday text slot because it makes me so emotional, it gives me hope, and it proves — to me, in my opinion — that even though it feels enormous, it is so worth doing something, even in a world where doing things is not advisable or comfortable.

G4P continue doing — after I finished mumbling into the megaphone, the crowd made its way up the stairs to the first floor, turning a left and a left into the Candida & Zak Gertler Gallery. Other more eloquent speakers addressed the group and someone got up on stool to rename the gallery. Literally, they just put up a new sign. Doing things is literally that easy. What’re GCCA going to do, take it down? (At time of writing, the new sign was still up, but as of Friday 17th May it has been taken down.) People can technically just march back in again and put the new sign back up. It’s amazing, I have HOPE. The limits of the world, that we all take for granted, are far more malleable than we seem to think // there’s no point respecting a polite line in the sand just because someone tells us we have to — we can just do whatever we like and dare them to stop us.

As I left Goldsmiths CCA, the Candida & Zak Gertler Gallery was no more. It was now Walid Daqqa’s wing. Walid Daqqa was a Palestinian writer who spent 38 years in an Israeli jail. In 2021 he was dianosed with a rare form of bone cancer. Despite calls for his release on humanitarian grounds, and despite the fact he’d already served his sentence, Israel’s Prison Service kept him a further 2 years for ‘smuggling mobile phones to distribute to other prisoners to contact their families’. In March 2024, a month before he died in custody, his lawyer visited him in prison. Through Amnesty International, it was reported that Walid Daqqa had been denied medical treatment and food, and there was evidence he was subjected to torture by the Israeli Prison Service. Walid Daqqa’s writing has been called ‘an act of resistance’ — he once wrote, love is my modest and only victory against my jailer. I think the gallery is much better served by his name.

I’ll leave you with three last quick bits of information. Strike Outset is the official name for a collective refusal to work with Outset Contemporary Art Fund and all its projects. You can have a look at their website for more information — what it basically is, is a labour boycott. In refusing to work with Outset, because of their connection to Candida Gertler, artists can come together to make their refusal more powerful. One person saying no might feel like a drop in a big wide ocean, but together that collective refusal carries more power. It’s a strategy that’s proven itself to have worked – after years of artists self-organising a collective refusal to work with the Zabludowicz Art Trust, global institutions have joined in with severing ties — the Zabludowicz Collection was forced shut their London Project space in November 2023. The Strike Outset boycott has a similar call: to sign a pledge and join the collective refusal, to strike/boycott all of Outset’s worldwide chapters and projects in any form. You can find a list of the signatories here, and at the bottom of the page is a link to sign the pledge for yourself, if you haven’t already and would like to. I’ll also link Strike Outset’s FAQs page in case you want more info on what being a signatory involves, you can also contact them directly with questions about specific cases that might be a bit complicated.

The second bit of information is about more activity at Goldsmiths – if you didn’t know about it, I’ll give you some quick info. Students are also resisting the Transformation Plan, a programme of cuts and redundancies. Goldsmiths management are proposing compulsory redundancies for the equivalent of 130 full time jobs. Precarious part time contracts are so deeply embedded in the university sector at this point, so this obviously means a lot more than 130 jobs on the line. It could actually impact at least a quarter of all teaching and research staff, 11 out of 19 departments. It’d mean more major disruption for students and the outright scrapping of some modules, maybe even entire courses. Students and staff are organising acts of resistance – if you have the interest and capacity to join them or support in any way, you can find more info from Goldsmiths UCU and GoldsmithsStories – who are a group of students resisting the TP. I mention it because it’s actually related to this story about G4P – they’ve added it to their list of demands and, fucking good on them. The more things are linked up the better – they can’t ignore everyone, can they?

Which brings me on to my third and last bit of info. Even beyond Goldsmiths, these encampments and resistance through action isn’t exclusive to college campuses over in the US. Universities here in the UK are showing up for Palestine – students at UCL have taken the main quad and set up tents, at SOAS there’s a whole liberated zone, QMUL and LSE, in Leeds students are camping out and in Newcastle too. In Manchester, Liverpool, Oxford, Bristol, Aberdeen, Sheffield, Warwick, Edinburgh, NottinghamStudents at Trinity College Cambridge have forced their college to divest from all arms companies. God bless them all, oh my god, I love them. Thank god for them, honestly honestly. If you’re a student or staff at any university I’ve missed in this long list, and you know of a group you’d want us to flag, let us know – slide into our DMs or email us (info(@)thewhitepube(.)com) and lmk, I’ll edit this list whenever wherever.