Showing posts with label Students for Justice in Palestine. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Students for Justice in Palestine. Show all posts

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Why is Palestine solidarity being criminalized on California campuses?

Kristin Szremski is a member of the US Campaign Steering Committee, an independent journalist and the director of media and communications at American Muslims for Palestine.

Cooperation between academic authorities at the University of California at Davis and influential Zionist organizations could have an adverse impact on Palestine solidarity work there and on college campuses across the country.

The implications of what is unfolding on the UC Davis campus go far beyond issues of free speech. Several pro-Israel forces and the institutionalized pro-Israel bias of university administrators have converged to create a formidable agenda that conflates support for Palestinian rights with the violation of Jewish students’ civil rights. If left unchallenged, this could create a nearly impossible environment on university campuses for the free exchange of ideas, especially those that include criticism of Israeli policy.

Alert to this institutionalized bias, California Scholars for Academic Freedom, a group of 150 academics from 20 universities and colleges, issued a statement on 10 March decrying University of California President Mark Yudof for delivering “a blow to the right to dissent and protest” (“California scholars for academic freedom protest UC president’s apparent bias regarding the right of free speech and dissent on UC campuses,” US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, 10 March 2012).

“It should not be necessary to explain that one can protest the actions of a government without committing a hate crime,” the letter states. “We applaud and endorse any initiative ‘to foster a climate of tolerance, civility and open-mindedness,’ but we do not believe that criminalizing dissent can ever serve that purpose.”

At issue is the controversy surrounding a silent and peaceful walkout staged by Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and other social justice groups on 27 February. Zionist organizations, including StandWithUs, brought the “Israeli Soldiers Speak Out” tour to campus as part of a national campaign to combat Israeli Apartheid Week, the global effort to raise awareness of Israel’s policies among students. The UC Davis protesters stood up and walked out of the auditorium silently. But one student, unaffiliated with SJP, stood and heckled, egging on security personnel to remove him from the scene.

Despite the overwhelming video evidence that SJP students were silent, Yudof and the campus Hillel organization condemned the Palestine solidarity group, conflating its members with the actions of one.


Continue Reading at The Electronic Intifada

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Palestinian Academics Condemn Cornell University's Collaboration with Technion

The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott (PACBI) of Israel has issued a statement condemning Cornell University's collaboration with Technion - Israel Institute of Technology. Cornell and Technion are building a multi-billion dollar science and technology campus together on Roosevelt Island in New York. Technion, like other Israeli academic institutions, is complicit in Israel's continuing occupation and violations of Palestinian human rights and international law. Joining US Campaign member groups US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI) and Cornell Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), PACBI is urging residents of New York, US civil society, and people of conscience to mobilize against the Cornell-Technion partnership. Sign and share Cornell SJP's petition opposing Cornell's shameful collaboration with Technion and check out USACBI's resources page on the Cornell-Technion partnership! 


PACBI | March 4, 2012
An Appeal for Action: End Cornell University Collaboration with Technion

The Palestinian academic community was deeply disturbed by the recently revealed plan of collaboration between Cornell University and Technion - Israel Institute of Technology.  The two institutions have won a multi-billion-dollar competition held by the City of New York to establish “a 2 million square foot engineering and applied sciences university campus” on Roosevelt Island, NY [1].  Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) at Cornell University have petitioned the City of New York and Cornell University to end this collaboration with an Israeli institution that is "directly implicated in war crimes [2]."  Similarly, the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI) has launched an appeal calling on students and faculty to put pressure on their university to withdraw from this troubling partnership [3].
The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) would like to join these groups in deploring the collaboration between US higher institutions of learning and Israeli Academic institutions complicit in Israel’s violations of international law and the rights of Palestinians.  In view of our focus this year on academic boycott, we call on US civil society to bring the injustices of this venture to light.  In the first instance, all New York City residents should, rightfully, be outraged that their tax dollars are being apportioned in the service of such an endeavor, and we appeal to them to pressure the City of New York administration to end this collaboration.  Moreover, we ask students, staff, and faculty at institutions around the country, including student groups such as SJP, as well as workers, labor unions, and other civil society organizations in New York City, to mobilize against the administration of Cornell University to end its partnership with Technion.  More importantly, we call on people of conscience to mobilize on the issue of the Cornell-Technion partnership, and academic boycott more broadly, through street protests, educational venues, media presence and other such mobilizations.
Technion Complicity
Technion's record of complicity in Israel’s violations of international law and Palestinian rights is too long to reproduce here, but here are some highlights:
-    It has a partnership with Elbit Systems, which is one of Israel’s largest private weapons manufacturers.  Elbit manufactured the drones that Israel used in its crimes against civilians in Lebanon 2006 and Gaza 2008-09. This partnership has played a leading role not only in the construction and surveillance of the apartheid wall in Palestine, but also along the U.S.-Mexico border through its subsidiary, Kollsman.

-    Technion trains its engineering students to work with companies dealing “directly in the development of complex weapons in the process of researching their academic theses” [4].  In one example with Elbit Systems, the reward has been the funding of research grants in upwards of half a million dollars to Technion’s students conducting research [5].

-    One of the institute’s most notorious projects resulted in the development of a remote-control function on the Caterpillar’s 'D9’ bulldozer “used by the Israeli army to demolish Palestinian houses and farms and the development of a method for detecting underground tunnels, specifically developed in order to assist the Israeli army in its continued siege on the Gaza Strip” [6]

-    Technion has deep relations with Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, one of Israel’s largest government-sponsored weapons manufacturers famous for its “advanced hybrid armor protection system” used in Israel’s Merkava tanks [7]. The institute has developed an “MBA program tailored specifically for Rafael managers” which further solidifies its relationship between academia and Israel’s military-industrial complex [8].

-    Technion rewards its students who perform their compulsory military service.  It also granted Israeli army reservists who participated in the Israeli massacre of Gaza in 2008-2009 “academic benefits in addition to the usual benefits for reservists” [9].
Why Academic Boycott?
In 2004, Palestinian civil society called for an academic boycott in the spirit of the South African anti-apartheid movement.  In our statement, we have maintained that a boycott of Israeli academic institutions is necessary due to the complicity of these institutions in the system of oppression that has denied Palestinians their basic rights guaranteed by international law.


In our 2004 call we stated that the academic boycott
is in line with the authoritative call by the Palestinian Council for Higher Education (CHE) for "non-cooperation in the scientific and technical fields between Palestinian and Israeli universities." Academic institutions in particular are part of the ideological and institutional scaffolding of the Zionist settler-colonial project in Palestine, and as such are deeply implicated in maintaining the structures of domination and oppression over the Palestinian people. Since its founding, the Israeli academy has cast its lot with the hegemonic political-military establishment in Israel, and notwithstanding the efforts of a handful of principled academics, is deeply implicated in supporting and perpetuating the status quo. [10]
While it is common to think of universities as ivory towers separate from society, this view ignores the deep roots of the academy in society, and in shaping our knowledge of the world.  Universities influence political power, shape future generations, and structure the moral and ideological underpinnings of our societies.  In the case of Israel, the academy gives the state a veneer of being liberal, tolerant, and just.  This is an image that serves to combat and whitewash the state’s ongoing occupation, colonialism and apartheid.
Why Israeli Institutions?
In response to a call for academic boycott of Israel, one might respond that US academic institutions collaborate with other academic institutions around the world, as well as with their own government that is involved in human rights abuses, war and occupation.  This argument is often used as a red herring to distract activists, and as an attempt to delegitimize the movement.  However, it is critical for us to recognize this as a legitimate concern when it comes from truly conscientious activists and observers, and from people who are invested in advancing ethical forms of resistance against all kinds of oppression.
The above argument can be broken into three parts.  First, we must recognize the voice of Palestinians who suffer under Israel’s intricate multi-tiered system of oppression.  In this sense, an important element is the call by an overwhelming majority of Palestinian civil society for an international boycott of Israel that is embodied in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.  In the 70s and 80s, no ethically minded person would have screamed that the anti-apartheid movement was hypocritical for asking for the boycott of South Africa and not, say, Israel, the U.S. or the Soviet Union.  Thus, it rings hollow and suspicious when people question Palestinians and international solidarity activists for applying the boycott to Israel but not other places.  The BDS movement is explicit in its solidarity with oppressed people around the world fighting against all forms of oppression.  It similarly calls on others to stand with Palestinians in their time of resistance.
Second, we are keenly aware that US academic institutions partner with other foreign academic institutions.  To the extent that these foreign institutions are complicit in their governments’ abuses of international law and human rights, in ways similar to the complicity of Israeli academic institutions, then we also condemn such partnerships.  We doubt, however, that there are, as of yet, any joint ventures within US borders between Saudi Arabian academic institutions, for example, and a US institution.  It is no coincidence that Israeli institutions enjoy greater access to US academic networks, including the funding that these networks enable.  This is what makes the tactic of boycott crucial, effective, and urgent when applied to Israel.  We also stress again that Israel’s atrocious violations of international law remain violations even if there are other countries that commit the same.
This leads to our third argument, where it should not be denied that academic institutions in the US collaborate with their own government, arguably the world's leading and most violent violator of human rights, if we take Iraq and Afghanistan as case studies.  We believe these partnerships should end, and a campaign against Cornell-Technion should strive to raise awareness on US academic complicity, inviting various sectors of local communities to share their experiences and build mutual solidarities.  However, this should not prevent a serious and legitimate call to boycott collaborations with Israeli institutions.  The herculean task of disengaging US academia from the US military industrial complex should not deter or demobilize activists from a call to boycott Israel and its complicit institutions.  Did any morally conscientious person call on US academia to boycott its government before boycotting the apartheid South African regime?  Could American university administrations, morally speaking, argue against the boycott of apartheid South Africa, simply because their own institutions were developing technology for the US government?  We hardly think so.  We cannot defer the rights of people around the world as we wait for the US superpower to clean its house.  However, we must also not hold back from our collective struggles against the abuses of the US government.
In this way, we, at PACBI, along with our coalition partners in Palestinian civil society wish to express our solidarity with oppressed segments of US civil society, and ask that you hear our call and put pressure on your academic institutions and city councils to boycott apartheid Israel.  This is what we ask for in our struggle for freedom, justice and equality.

Notes:
[1] http://english.al-akhbar.com/content/new-york-host-israels-top-drone-lab
[2] http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/in-opposition-to-cornell-universitys/
[3] http://www.usacbi.org/2011/12/open-letter-to-cornell-university-dont-collaborate-with-apartheid/
[4] Uri Yacobi Keller, The Economy of the Occupation: A Socioeconomic Bulletin. (Jerusalem: Alternative Information Center, 2009), 10. http://usacbi.files.wordpress.com/2009/11/economy_of_the_occupation_23-24.pdf.
[5] ibid, 10-11
[6] ibid, 9
[7] “Structures of Oppression: Why McGill and Concordia Universities Must Sever their Links with the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology,” 4. http://www.tadamon.ca/wp-content/uploads/Technion-English.pdf
[8] Ibid., 3-4
[9] Keller, 12-13 (see link above)
[10] http://www.pacbi.org/etemplate.php?id=1108

Monday, November 28, 2011

DePaul University Students Declare Victory in Sabra Hummus Campaign

Just prior to Thanksgiving, US Campaign coalition member group DePaul University Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) announced an important victory in its campaign against the sale of Sabra hummus in university dining halls. Earlier this year, DePaul SJP launched a campaign to have Sabra hummus removed from campus dining halls because it is partially owned by the Strauss Group, which provides material and financial support to Israeli military units. After an inquiry into the activities of the Strauss Group, the university elected to continue selling Sabra hummus. However, the university has quietly introduced the sale of an alternative brand of hummus in the university's dining halls providing students with the opportunity to make ethical consumer purchases.

The battle over Sabra hummus at DePaul reminds us that grassroots efforts often lead to progressive change even when our primary goals have not been immediately achieved. DePaul SJP's Sabra hummus campaign raised awareness of how our consumer choices can render us complicit in supporting Israeli occupation and apartheid. The availability of an alternative brand of hummus is an important victory that takes on added significance as pro-Israel groups begin to counter BDS actions in the US with events like this week's "Buy Israel Week."

DePaul University students declare victory in Sabra hummus campaign

PRESS RELEASE FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE November 23, 2011

DePaul University students declare victory in Sabra hummus campaign

Following SJP’s campaign to remove Sabra hummus from campus due to students’ concerns about the product’s connection to human rights abuses, DePaul provides alternative hummus brand in its dining halls.

CHICAGO, IL (November 23, 2011)—DePaul University Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) declare a major victory in their campaign against the sale of Sabra hummus products after University dining services introduced an alternative brand of hummus to campus this fall quarter. The decision was made after SJP’s yearlong campaign to draw attention to the complicity of Sabra’s parent company, the Strauss Group, in Israel’s military occupation of Palestine.

Student activists identify the University’s decision to introduce an alternative brand of hummus as a revision of the University’s decision to continue selling Sabra hummus. SJP member Maryam Salem said, “We’re happy that student concerns over Sabra hummus have finally been heard. A lot of students were disappointed by the University’s decision to keep Sabra back in the spring. But now, by offering an alternative brand of hummus, students have an ethical product they can choose.”

CONTINUE READING HERE...

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Power of an Insurrectionary Imagination


By Jody Scholz
US Campaign intern
I recently had the good fortune of attending a conference in Atlanta sponsored by US Campaign coalition member group Friends of Sabeel-North America (FOSNA). The conference, From Birmingham to Bethlehem: The Power of Nonviolence in the US and Palestine-Israel, featured a variety of workshops and plenary speakers linking the nonviolent resistance of the US Civil Rights movement to the ongoing nonviolent Palestinian resistance to Israeli occupation and apartheid. Legendary civil rights activist Dr. Bernard LaFayette implored conference attendees to join in solidarity actions with the Palestinian Freedom Riders, Dr. Beverly Guy-Sheftall spoke of her trip to the West Bank in June as part of a US delegation of women of color feminists, led by US Campaign Advisory Board member Barbara Ransby, which subsequently endorsed the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel. Kennesaw State University Professor Jesse Benjamin led a packed workshop on whiteness in the Jewish-Christian Zionist embrace, and US Campaign National Organizer Anna Baltzer gave a dynamic presentation chronicling expanding apartheid conditions on the ground in Palestine-Israel eloquently advocating for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) as a powerful form of nonviolent resistance.
FOSNA has organized 33 regional conferences across the US over the last nine years and they have several scheduled for next year. If you have the opportunity to attend one, I would highly encourage you to do so. It was a challenging and richly rewarding experience.
In keeping with FOSNA’s mission of engaging North American Christians on the issue of a just peace in the Holy Land, many of the workshops focused on the moral, legal and theological basis from which US churches can work to end US complicity in the occupation. One of the recurring points of discussion throughout the conference was how US churches should respond to calls for “balance” when discussing the Palestine-Israel conflict. This is a particularly tricky issue for progressive US churches, many of whom feel a need to atone for Christian anti-Semitism and complicity in the Holocaust, and have admirably dedicated themselves to building relations with the Jewish community via interfaith dialogue and reconciliation.
While invoking the need for balance in discussing the conflict seems reasonable enough, it is almost always employed as way of normalizing the relationship between the oppressor and the oppressed. Several conference speakers, notably author and activist Mark Braverman, noted that in practice this means interfaith dialogue far too often results in Christian theologians refusing to condemn or even discuss Israeli human rights abuses against the Palestinians. And where there is criticism of Israel, it is almost always accompanied by recognition of Israeli suffering as somehow on par with the suffering of Palestinians living under the scourge of apartheid and occupation. The apparent reasonableness of entreaties for balance and dialogue helps explain why normalization is such an insidiously powerful and effective discourse.
The issue of normalization was also the focus of a skills-building workshop led by a Columbia University SJP member, cartoonist and solidarity activist Ethan Heitner, and US Campaign National Organizer Anna Baltzer at last month’s National Students for Justice in Palestine Conference. Columbia SJP and Adalah-NY, of which Heitner is a member, are both US Coalition member groups. Palestinian solidarity organizations on US campuses are often challenged by Zionist student groups to organize events together to present both perspectives of the conflict. In order to help student groups (and other solidarity activists) better understand and explain how normalization legitimizes Israel’s oppression of the Palestinian people, Keilani and Heitner created a comic. The comic, titled “Nothing Normal About It,” does a great job of bringing to life how normalization misdirects attention away from Israeli crimes and frustrates our efforts to educate people in the US about the conflict.


As we continue to confront the discourse of normalization in the US, we must remember the importance of speaking differently. Our challenge is to articulate narratives that move beyond the entrenched vocabulary of the dominant discourse. This discourse serves not only to limit the scope of permissible discussion, but it also works to demoralize our spirits (so aptly depicted in the comic) and lock our imaginations. Cultural activism of the kind embodied by Keilani and Heitner’s comic enables us to question the dominant ways of seeing things and to present alternative views of the world because it opens up our imaginations, or what Jennifer Verson has referred to as our “insurrectionary imagination”:
An insurrectionary imagination is at the heart of cultural activism. It is a sense of possibility that is not limited by copying a pattern or following a design that somebody else created, or by what Augusto Boal (2002) calls the “cop in the head.” We all have that voice, the one that tells us our ideas are stupid, they won’t work out, they are too difficult or are bound to fail.
Cultural activism relies on killing the cop in your head and expressly tries to develop this insurrectionary imagination to create performances and actions. This living practice addresses complicated questions about how we build the world that we want to live in. Insurrectionary imaginations evoke a type of activism that is rooted in the blueprints and patterns of political movements of the past but is driven by its hunger for new processes of art and protest.

Rafeef Ziadah’s spoken word performance of her poem “We teach life, sir,” exploded across the internet this past week because she creates a narrative which simultaneously unmasks the violence of the Israeli occupation and the complicity of a noxious discourse that excuses Israeli brutality by invoking that great racist colonial trope of the Palestinians as uncivilized barbarians who can only be tamed through brute force. In a mere four minutes, Ziadah turns that discourse, so often repeated in the media, inside out and exposes its moral shallowness. This is the power of the insurrectionary imagination.
As we move forward as a movement, we must be consciously open to seeing, speaking, listening and thinking differently. We must believe in the power of our imaginations to help dissolve the boundary between dream and reality to create a world of unbounded freedom for all.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Invitation to Historic National Students for Justice in Palestine Conference

Below is an invitation to students around the country to attend the historic national Students for Justice in Palestine conference next month at Columbia University. Students attending and organizing the conference represent SJPs around the country, including several US Campaign member groups. 



National SJP Conference
14-16 Oct 2011
Columbia University
Dear Students,
It is with great pleasure that we invite you to the 2011 National Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) Conference at Columbia University in the City of New York from 14-16 October 2011.
Over the past couple of months, a number of student activists from SJPs and other student groups focused on Palestine from around the country have been laying the foundations for a national SJP conference to be held in Fall 2011. This group emerged from a discussion which took place on the national SJP listserv and has met a number of times via teleconference.
The objective of this conference is to democratically shape and refine the existing network of SJP groups in the United States, building on the momentum these groups have generated in recent years and strengthening the historical movement of which we are all a part.
This conference is specifically geared towards current student Palestine solidarity activists, including current students actively involved in, or looking to establish, a SJP group or a similar Palestine solidarity student group, as well as alumni actively involved in assisting their former SJP group.
To succeed the planning of this conference needs to be a democratic process involving as many students as possible, and we hope you will become involved. We are confident that this conference will provide a momentous opportunity for students across the United States who are mobilizing for justice in Palestine to exchange ideas and to strengthen the national student movement.
Sincerely,
The Ad Hoc National SJP Conference Planning Committee

To register for the conference, click here.

Read the full text of the letter here.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

"We Stand With the Irvine 11"


Following the convictions of the students known as the "Irvine 11" this past week, over thirty chapters nationwide of Students for Justice in Palestine have signed on to a message of support for the Irvine 11.  The students were arrested in February 2010 and charged with “conspiracy to disrupt a public meeting” and “disruption of a public meeting,” after interrupting a speech by Israeli Ambassador to the U.S., Michael Oren.

Sign on to the pledge here.

We Stand With the Irvine 11

"Ordinarily, a person leaving a courtroom with a conviction behind him
would wear a somber face.  But I left with a smile.  I knew that I was a
convicted criminal, but I was proud of my crime. It was the crime of joining
my people in a nonviolent protest against injustice."


-Martin Luther King, Jr. (Case No. 7399, convicted of violating the state
of Alabama's anti-boycott law, March 22, 1956, from "Stride Toward
Freedom: the Montgomery Story".)

We join our voices with the unjustly charged and convicted Irvine 11, who
dared to draw attention to Israel‚s war crimes. Orange County District
Attorney, Tony Rackauckus, has punished students who care about the world
enough to try to change it. The 11 students refused to remain silent when
Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren spoke at the University of California,
Irvine in February 2010. Their brief outbursts, at best representing
protected First Amendment speech and at worst harmless civil disobedience,
have led to McCarthyistic misdemeanor charges. On September 23, 2011, an
Orange Country jury found them guilty.





We unequivocally condemn these charges, which unfairly single out and
criminalize Muslim students who chose to exercise their First Amendment
right to speak out against Israel’s human rights abuses. Had the speaker not
been Israeli, had the issue not been Palestine, had the students not been
Muslim, these charges never would have been pursued. Rather, these charges
reflect a climate of Islamophobia and an irrational exceptionalism for
Israel when it comes to free speech. The charges chill the free exchange of
ideas and students‚ right to protest at universities nationwide.

CONTINUE READING HERE

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Two Opportunities to Learn about Palestine UN Membership Bid

Join the US Campaign this week for two opportunities to learn more about Palestine's UN membership bid.

Tonight, Wednesday, September 21, 8-9pm join us at Georgetown University for a panel discussion with National Advocacy Director Josh Ruebner, Noura Erakat, and Mouin Rabbani, sponsored by Students for Justice in Palestine and the Lecture Fund.


Video streaming by Ustream
Streaming video by Ustream

Palestine’s Statehood Bid: Implications on the Peace Process
Wednesday, September 21st
8:00pm to 9:00pm
ICC 104

Join Students for Justice in Palestine and the Lecture Fund for a panel discussion of the Palestinian statehood bid and its consequences with an international human rights law expert, an advocacy director, and a journalist.

Speakers: Noura Erakat, Josh Ruebner, Mouin Rabbani

If you can't make it to Georgetown tonight, or live outside of the Washington, DC area, tune in for a livestream broadcast of the panel at: http://www.endtheoccupation.org

Then on Thursday, September 22, you're invited to a conference call with National Advocacy Director Josh Ruebner, organized by US Campaign member group Jewish Fast for Gaza to discuss the Palestine UN membership bid. Details below:

Our September phone conference will be on Thursday, September 22 at 12 noon Eastern Time (Call in number: 800-920-7487 Code: 92247763# ) with Josh Ruebner and we hope you will join us. There is a lot of misinformation about the Palestinian U.N. initiative. The call will be an opportunity to discuss the meaning of the U.N. initiative, to explore its implications, and also to find out more about the U.S. Campaign's position on this and other related issues.

Ruebner is a former Analyst in Middle East Affairs at Congressional Research Service, a federal government agency providing Members of Congress with policy analysis. His analysis and commentary on U.S. policy toward the Middle East appear frequently in media such as NBC, ABC Nightline, CSPAN, Al Jazeera, USA Today, Los Angeles Times, The Hill, Detroit Free Press, Huffington Post, Middle East Report, and more. You can read articles by Ruebner and related articles on the U.N. initiative on our website.

We hope you will join us for this important conversation. There will be time for questions and answers.