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Letter to the editor: Students for Justice in Palestine discuss inequality, injustice in Israel, Palestine

Letter to the editor:

Recently, more than 500 student activists from around the country converged on Tufts University for the fourth annual National Students for Justice in Palestine Conference. Run entirely for students by students, this year’s conference centered on the importance of joint struggle in the movement for justice in Palestine — that is, the imperative of connecting the movement to achieve freedom for Palestinians to efforts to dismantle racism, colonialism and imperialism both in the United States and abroad. We were joined not only by seasoned Palestine solidarity activists and those who have personally experienced the structural violence of the Israeli occupation, but also by organizers from the black, Latino, Filipino and LGBTQ communities, who emphasized the unity of their struggles with that of the Palestinians.

Our experience attending this year’s conference was at once inspirational and humbling. In the past year, as the burgeoning Palestine solidarity movement has grown in momentum in the face of continued Israeli human rights abuses and the collapse of the so-called “peace process,” efforts to silence pro-Palestinian, voices on campus have only intensified.  

Witness the temporary suspension of Northeastern University’s SJP chapter earlier this year for distributing mock eviction notices — meant to simulate those routinely served upon Palestinian families before their homes are demolished days later — to student dorms. Or the arbitrary de-hiring of Steven Salaita at the University of Illinois for his outspoken criticism over Twitter of Israel’s brutal assault on Gaza this summer. These incidents are a sobering reminder of the taboo surrounding legitimate criticisms of Israeli policies.

Despite this well-funded and concerted campaign to suppress pro-Palestinian voices, the student activists we met — Jews, Muslims, Christians and atheists alike — remained steadfast in their commitment to ending their universities’ complicity in the Israeli occupation and to standing with other marginalized communities. The same activists leading conversations on planning divestment campaigns and responding to false charges of anti-Semitism, for instance, were those at the front lines of the movements to end mass incarceration and police militarization. Indeed, many had traveled from their hometowns to protest police brutality in Ferguson, chanting slogans like “From Ferguson to Palestine, end racism now!” Immediately, we were comforted by the sense of belonging we found yet reminded of the work still to be done in our own communities.

As campus and community organizers, we often feel disconnected from the reality on the ground in Palestine: it is one thing to protest Israel’s wanton killing of over 2,000 Palestinians — more than 70 percent of them civilians — on the streets of Columbus this summer, or to educate fellow students on Israel’s illegal separation wall. It is quite another to actually live in Gaza, which has been described as the world’s largest open-air prison, or to be shot at with tear gas and rubber (and sometimes live) bullets while engaging in weekly non-violent protests against the separation wall in the West Bank city of Bil’in.

However, if there was anything that was confirmed to us, it is that injustice and inequality remain alive and well in Israel/Palestine, and so too must the struggle for Palestinian freedom and self-determination. Yet this struggle will not be complete until the colonization and occupation of indigenous lands and peoples at home and abroad cease, nor until violence against women and black, indigenous and migrant people comes to an end. We call on all those who stand with the oppressed and marginalized to join us in ending our university’s complicity in the Israeli occupation and in demanding a world of freedom, equality and justice for all people. 

Brian Yeh
Member, Committee for Justice in Palestine

Cruz Bonlarron Martinez
Publicity Director, Committee for Justice in Palestine

Seema Sandhu
Co-secretary, Committee for Justice in Palestine

Majd Zuhour
Co-secretary, Committee for Justice in Palestine


  1. I was very disappointed that I could not attend the conference, but I am glad to see this wonderful report. Struggles that had been separate at one time — against gentrification, mass incarceration, mass deportation, and imperialism — are more and more coming together as people realize the connections between Israeli apartheid and racism and oppression here at home. The movement is growing and it is an exciting time to be involved.

  2. Vidar Thorsteinsson

    What an inspiring letter! Thanks for your magnificent work.

  3. Hey guys, you should get USG to pass a resolution supporting divestment in their General Assembly! It’s time the students speak out on this matter.

  4. SJP is nothing more than another propaganda tool for Islamic caliphate building.

  5. There are two UN refugee agencies in the world: First is the United Nations Relief and Works Administrations (UNRWA) for 5 million Palestinian refugees (which includes the descendants of the original 500,000 Palestinian refugees from the Israeli War of Independence) which employs 30,000 workers. The UNRWA has resettled no Palestinians.

    The second refugee agency is the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which assists every other refugee in the world–including 100 million displaced people during the last 50 years–and employs 7,000 people. The UNHCR has resettled tens of millions of refugees.

    Looking at these numbers, one would think that the cause of the Palestinians is somehow morally superior to that of all other war refugees. After all, why have so many more workers been assisting a dramatically smaller group of people? But if the Palestinians are unique it is only because of their moral inferiority, as they are the only group of refugees that regularly commit acts of terrorism against innocent civilians.

    Another obvious question: why hasn’t the UNRWA resettled any of the Palestinian refugees? The answer, of course, is that the surrounding Arab states would rather have these refugees remain a thorn in Israel’s side, than help them start a new life. The UNRWA is happy to oblige.

  6. Here is another example of Muslims compassion towards their brothers and sisters. (Sarc/off.)

    The Palestinian expulsion from Kuwait or 1991 Palestinian exodus from Kuwait took place at the end of the Gulf War, when Kuwait expelled almost 450,000 Palestinians.[1] The policy which led to this exodus was a response to the alignment of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and the PLO with Saddam Hussein, who had earlier invaded Kuwait. The exodus took place during one week in March 1991, following Kuwait’s liberation from Iraqi occupation. The story received little media attention in the aftermath of the liberation of Kuwait.

    The policy which led to this expulsion was a response to the alignment of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and the PLO with Saddam Hussein, who had earlier invaded Kuwait. The expulsion took place during one week in March 1991, following Kuwait’s liberation from Iraqi occupation. On March 14, only 150,000 Palestinians were still residing in Kuwait, out of initial 450,000 – many of them fearful for their fate.[4]

    In total, Kuwait expelled 443,000 Palestinians.[1] Several Palestinians were killed by vigilante groups including some with links to the royal family.[5] With the completion of the exodus only 7,000 Palestinians remained.[1]
    Kuwaitis said that Palestinians leaving the country could move to Jordan, and that most Palestinians held Jordanian passports.[4] No reports of where the Palestinans actually went to after the expulsion have appeared.

  7. Modern Muslims have religious conflict with: Hindus in Kashmir; Christians in Nigeria, Egypt, and Bosnia; atheists in Chechnya; Baha’is in Iran; Animists in Darfur; Buddhists in Thailand; each other in Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen; Jews in Israel; Why is Islam involved in more sectarian and religious conflicts than any other religion today? In fact, why is Islam the only religion in conflict with every single one of today’s major world religions?
    But you think belligerent pugnacious Islam has legitimate grievances in this constant conflict, and that, for example in Palestine, Islam is just defending its own reasonable interests?
    No, not at bottom. At bottom what we have in Islam is a violent, expansionist totalitarianism. That’s why Islam is in conflict all over the world with every other religion.

  8. Vidar,

    Did you see the magnificent news today?

    The inspiring news is one more college SJP organization was put on probation! What a shame these bullies cannot control themselves. By gosh it reminds one of the same moderate Muslims who go nuts at cartoons of Mohammed and the suchlike.

    Anyway, I’ll let you Vidar figure out which campus was the latest one to kick these hooligans off.

  9. The Hasbara Network

    As usual, Arafat is doing a great job at trolling SJP articles. We can always rely on you. Keep up the great work!

  10. Any religion that forbids people from praying somewhere that they have claimed as a holy site (al aqsa mosque/temple mount) is clearly supported by lunatics. Maybe Palestinians just need to stop being fanatical muslims and they would find Israel very freindly and helpful. Just an idea…
    Also, stop wildy firing rockets and mortars at non-comatants.
    Also, stop being crazy muslim fanatics…oops, already did that one…

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