SJP presents vital Palestinian issues

by Staff

—By SJP members Nadine Hassoun and Agha Zain

Three weeks ago, Israel launched a segregated bus system. Palestinian workers in the West Bank are now required to use Palestinian-only buses to travel to work in Israel. To think half a century after Rosa Parks resisted this type of segregation, a country that the U.S. considers one of its strongest allies and gives more than $3 billion to annually, still discriminates on the basis of ethnicity is atrocious and unacceptable. This move by Israel evoked not just the segregation of the American South but also the apartheid regime of South Africa

As a student organization on campus, Students for Justice in Palestine aims to raise awareness on injustices such as these through events like Palestine Awareness Week. SJP is a diverse group of students, staff and community members, organized in accordance with democratic principles to promote justice, human rights, liberation and self-determination for the Palestinian people. Held annually, Palestine Awareness Week is part of SJP’s commitment to promote awareness to our community and fellow students about Palestinian culture, history, heritage and current political issues. The Palestinian cause is a fundamental part of the universal struggle for justice and human rights, and we stand in solidarity with any group suffering from oppression and occupation.

This year’s Palestine Awareness Week aims to educate the San Diego State student body about the injustices faced by Palestinians in Israeli prison systems-paralleling it with the U.S. prison system-raise awareness of Israel’s war crimes that continue to go unpunished, and of course, to appreciate the rich Palestinian culture and history.

At previous events, members of other groups have hatefully accused SJP of being “anti-Semitic” or “supporters of terrorism.” In fact, many allies in the fight for justice in Palestine are Jewish and Israeli. Noam Chomsky, Norman Finkelstein, former President Jimmy Carter, Alice Walker, Roger Waters, Nelson Mandela and archbishop Desmond Tutu are just some of the high profile pro-Palestinian, pro-justice activists and supporters.

SJP rejects attempts to equate the criticism of Zionism or of Israeli policies with anti-Semitism and recognizes that this is part of a nationwide trend of intimidation against Palestine solidarity organizing on U.S. college campuses. Earlier this month, a faculty member at the University of Oregon attempted to physically assault students who were holding a mock checkpoint on campus during Israeli Apartheid Week. Recently, the University of California Santa Cruz started a campaign to hold faculty member Tammi Rossman-Benjamin accountable for her Islamophobic and inflammatory comments that SJP and Muslim Student Association members have “ties to terrorist organizations.”

While intimidation of Palestine solidarity organizing is affecting students from all angles, students are staying strong and remaining focused on the mission of the work, which is to raise awareness of the human rights violations happening in Palestine, and what students can actually do in the U.S. to make a difference.

One of the things students can do to fight back against intimidation efforts is to educate themselves about the human rights violations in Palestine in addition to learning about the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement of Israel, which was called for by members of Palestinian civil society in 2005. Since November, student senate bills calling for their universities to divest from corporations profiting from human rights violations were passed at the University of California schools in San Diego, Irvine and Riverside.

Divestment initiatives have been historically utilized as means of highlighting human rights and environmental violations and calling for government and corporate accountability. And just as international BDS campaigns helped to pressure the government of South Africa to abandon apartheid policies, allies—which include a growing number of U.S. and Israeli Jews—call to boycott, divest and sanction Israel hope that the campaign will help pressure Israel to end the human rights abuses and apartheid policies.

Now is the time for students to join in solidarity with a growing movement of other students who refuse to be blind to Israel’s human rights abuses. As Desmond Tutu noted in 2012: “Israel becoming an apartheid state or like South Africa in its denial of equal rights is not a future danger … but a present-day reality.”