Black Lives Matter.
We, the undersigned chapters of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP)*, unequivocally support the Movement for Black Lives (M4BL) and its newly released policy platform for “Black power, freedom, and justice.” We fully endorse M4BL’s demands and take this moment to renew our commitment to fighting anti-blackness as well as all systems of oppression that disenfranchise and oppress Black communities.
We hear M4BL’s call for societal transformation –– from self-determination and investment in Black education to universal healthcare and civil rights protections for queer, trans, and non-binary Black communities –– and for an end to the centuries of violence against Black peoples. We recognize and condemn the harm caused by colonialism, militarization, incarceration, surveillance, resource theft and destruction, and erasure to Black communities in the US and around the world. In affirming that Black lives and Black liberation matter, we aim not only to uphold those working alongside us in the US but also those pursuing Black freedom globally. Accordingly, we pledge to uplift Black voices, including those of Afro-Palestinians, and to root out anti-blackness as we continue to build our movements.
We are moved by the platform’s recognition of Israel’s apartheid laws, illegal settlements, segregated road systems and military checkpoints, punitive home demolitions, and prison system, through which Palestinians, including children, are routinely subject to harassment and torture. As campus organizers, we also welcome M4BL’s endorsement of Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS), particularly given the current climate of anti-boycott legislation that we face, and we echo its acknowledgment of the US’s culpability in the Israeli occupation of Palestine, notably through military aid, diplomatic support, and investment in private prison companies.
While the struggles of Palestinians and Black people are not identical, we recognize that the same systems and structures contribute to global oppression. To envision and build a world rooted in liberation, we must and will carry forward the legacies of Black and Palestinian solidarity. “Our collective futures depend on it.”
We are steadfast in our support of Black liberation, and urge others in the Palestine solidarity movement to share and endorse the platform and take action.
In reaffirmed solidarity,
American University Students for Justice in Palestine
Athens for Justice in Palestine (University of Georgia)
Boston University Students for Justice in Palestine
Brandeis University Students for Justice in Palestine
Bryn Mawr College Voices for Palestine
California State University–Fullerton Students for Justice in Palestine
City University of New York–Hunter College Palestine Solidarity Alliance
Columbia University Students for Justice in Palestine
Cornell University Students for Justice in Palestine
DePaul University Students for Justice in Palestine
Drew University Students for Justice in Palestine
Earlham College Students for Justice in Palestine
Emory University Students for Justice in Palestine
The Evergreen State College Students for Justice in Palestine
Florida International University Students for Justice in Palestine
Florida State University Students for Justice in Palestine
Fordham University Students for Justice in Palestine
George Mason University Students Against Israeli Apartheid
The George Washington University Students for Justice in Palestine
Georgetown University Students for Justice in Palestine
Hampshire College Students for Justice in Palestine
Harvard College Palestine Solidarity Committee
Harvard Law School Justice for Palestine
Haverford College Students for Justice in Palestine
Indiana University–Purdue University of Indianapolis Students for Justice in Palestine
John Jay College of Criminal Justice Students for Justice in Palestine
Loyola University–Chicago Students for Justice in Palestine
Marquette University Students for Justice in Palestine
Michigan State University Students for Justice in Palestine
New York University Students for Justice in Palestine
Northeastern University Students for Justice in Palestine
Northwestern University Students for Justice in Palestine
Oberlin College Students for a Free Palestine
The Ohio State University Committee for Justice in Palestine
Rutgers University–New Brunswick Students for Justice in Palestine
Sacramento State University Students for Justice in Palestine
San Diego State University Students for Justice in Palestine
Santa Clara University Students for Justice in Palestine
The School of the Art Institute of Chicago Students for Justice in Palestine
St. Joseph's College Students for Justice in Palestine
Stanford University Students for Justice in Palestine
Swarthmore College Students for Peace and Justice in Palestine
Temple University Students for Justice in Palestine
Tufts University Students for Justice in Palestine
University of California–Berkeley Students for Justice in Palestine
University of California–Davis Students for Justice in Palestine
University of California–Irvine Students for Justice in Palestine
University of California–Los Angeles Students for Justice in Palestine
University of California–San Diego Students for Justice in Palestine
University of California–Santa Barbara Students for Justice in Palestine
University of California–Santa Cruz Students for Justice in Palestine
University of Chicago Students for Justice in Palestine
University of Cincinnati Students for Justice in Palestine
University of Dayton Students for Justice in Palestine
University of Illinois–Chicago Students for Justice in Palestine
University of Illinois–Urbana Champaign Students for Justice in Palestine
University of Louisville Students for Justice in Palestine
University of Maryland–College Park Students for Justice in Palestine
University of Michigan–Ann Arbor Students Allied for Freedom and Equality
University of Michigan–Dearborn Students for Justice in Palestine
University of Minnesota Students for Justice in Palestine
University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill Students for Justice in Palestine
University of North Florida Students for Justice in Palestine
University of Pennsylvania Penn Students for Justice in Palestine
University of South Carolina Students for Justice in Palestine
University of South Florida Students for Justice in Palestine
University of Texas–Austin Palestine Solidarity Committee
University of Wisconsin–Madison Students for Justice in Palestine
Vassar College Students for Justice in Palestine
Wayne State University Students for Justice in Palestine
Wellesley College Students for Justice in Palestine
Wesleyan University Students for Justice in Palestine
Williams College Students for Justice in Palestine
2014-2015 was a momentous year for our organization, which accomplished many of the long-term goals that activists had been working towards for several years. In the following post (as in 2012-2013 and 2013-2014), we try to re-cap the most important moments for our organization this year.
After a Multi-Year Campaign, SJP Passes Divestment
SJP has worked to pass a divestment resolution at UCLA for several years. In February 2014, the campaign put forward a vote that narrowly failed to pass, gaining 5 of the required 7 votes to pass. However, by bringing the issue to the public in this manner, SJP was able to garner a great deal of public support and broad awareness about the issues at stake. This momentum carried into the fall of 2014, prompting SJP to attempt once again to pass divestment.
During Fall 2014 quarter SJP UCLA held Palestine Awareness Week, an annual tradition. This time around, however, the decision was made to incorporate PAW into our next divestment campaign. In addition to a screening of the film “Roadmap to Apartheid” on the first night, there was also a panel featuring Sherene Seikalay and Nasser Barghouti on the moral imperative to support BDS, of which divestment is one component. These events, coupled with the daily presence of the mock wall that includes facts about what Palestinians experience under blockade, occupation and legal discrimination, and which also focused on the effects of the 2014 Israeli attacks on Gaza, allowed for us to utilize diverse and creative ways to educate the general student body about the importance of supporting divestment in particular, and BDS more broadly.
Following PAW, we continued our divestment campaign. In an attempt to increase transparency and reach more students from across the political spectrum, we both held a town hall where students were able to come and voice their concerns and make requests about what would be included on our divestment resolution, and created an online forum where additional feedback could be provided. These efforts, as well as the years of work put in by members of SJP in years past, were vindicated when, by an 8-2 vote, USAC passed “Resolution Calling for the UC Regents to Divest from Corporations Violating Palestinian Human Rights” on November 18th, at that time making UCLA the 6th UC to pass a resolution calling for divestment (Since then, UC Davis has become the 7th UC to pass divestment). The overwhelming show of support from the students who came out to provide public comment as well as the fact that 32 student organizations endorsed our resolution and 15 co-sponsored it as equal partners was a definitive blow to the tired myth of divestment being “divisive.” It’s impossible to even count how many students contributed to divestment's success in some way - through educating their peers, sharing information, attending the town hall, talking to council members, presenting to student groups, and so on. Tellingly, groups opposed to divestment failed to make a case against the substance of the resolution itself, resorting instead to attacking the process and organizations supporting this cause.
This victory culminated years of campaigning that began in earnest in 2012. Long thought to be one of the most difficult UCs for the Palestine solidarity movement, the resounding and bi-partisan victory was one of the most impressive indicator of how significantly public opinion has shifted in support of Palestinian freedom.
Divestment Momentum Continues at UCLA and Statewide
SJP UCLA’s divestment resolution passing through USAC was not the only important divestment victory of the year. During the following month, UAW 2865, the Graduate Union representing over 12,000 Academic Student Employees, passed its own resolution calling on the Regents to divest (passed by 2/3rds of voters) in addition to including a personal pledge signed on to by over 50% of its voting members to uphold the academic boycott of Israeli institutions that failed to support basic Palestinian rights. Furthermore, on February 8th, 2014, the University of California Students Association (the official voice of the student body of the University of California, representing hundreds of thousands of graduate and undergraduate students across the UC system) passed not one, but two different resolutions calling for divestment from companies that violate Palestinian human rights. This measure cemented the position of the UC student body: firmly in support of Palestinian rights and opposed to ongoing investments in companies that assisted in the Israeli government's violation of those rights. With the majority of schools in the UC system having passed resolutions calling for divestment at so many different levels, the student desire for divestment from these companies is beyond dispute, and the effort started by activists in the early 2000s is much closer to realization today than ever before.
Nevertheless, divestment is only one aspect of SJP’s work. It is in this spirit that, in January of Winter quarter, we hosted a report back with former Afrikan Student Union Chairperson Kamilah Moore. Moore spoke about her recent trip to Palestine with the Interfaith Peace Builders, highlighting both the need for intersectional solidarity with the Palestinian struggle as well as the necessity of remaining attuned to the facts on the ground.
Difficult Moments during Winter Quarter
But there were also difficult moments: starting Sunday, February 22nd, UCLA students reported seeing a series of hateful posters labeling SJP members terrorists and anti-Semites. Over the next few days, it became clear that this was part of a national campaign, as the same flyers began surfacing at different campuses across the country, from UCLA to De Paul to the University of Massachusetts. On February 24th, right-wing agitator David Horowitz admitted that he was behind the flyers, though he claimed that students on each of the campuses had posted the flyers themselves. To date, it remains unclear which students on our campus collaborated with Horowitz.
Following the discovery of the malicious and inflammatory posters circulated by David Horowitz on university campuses across the nation, SJP-UCLA felt it was necessary to have a community check-in and collectively collaborate with our fellow students on appropriate strategies to combat these types of occurrences. We held a Town Hall on Thursday, February 26th around the theme of “Confronting Islamophobic and Anti-Palestinian Hate Speech.” As described in a subsequent Daily Bruin article, the event provided a forum for individuals from a diverse array of backgrounds and political affiliations to collectively dialogue about the damage that can be caused by dehumanizing depictions and associations of particular groups regardless of political stances. One of the attendees secretly took notes for Horowitz’s website, which were posted only a few short days after the event. On April 16th, new posters in Horowitz’s anti-SJP campaign were again sighted at UCLA.
Furthermore, despite SJP’s lack of involvement with the incident, the offensive interview of then-potential JBoard appointee Rachel Beyda was often blamed on SJP and Palestine solidarity activism, to the extent that we were forced to issue formal statements affirming both our lack of involvement with Beyda’s interview and why our opposition to it is morally consistent with the tenets of BDS. Meanwhile, USAC members who were involved in the interview published their own apology, and on Tuesday, March 10th, USAC unanimously passed a resolution authored by UCLA Hillel and Avinoam Baral entitled “A Resolution Condemning Anti-Semitism” with no modifications, despite the fact that the resolution might be seen as conflating criticism of Israeli actions and policy with anti-Jewish bigotry. On a positive note, the authors of the resolution assured the public and voting council members that they did not consider the resolution to affect issues of Palestine activism such as divestment.
Continued Activism and Education Throughout the Spring
Two more winter quarter events further emphasized additional aspects of Palestine solidarity activism; the first, “BDS in Action,” featured Rabbi Alissa Wise from JVP and Nancy Kricorian from Code Pink, and delved into how increasing BDS victories across the nation reflect that public perception about the Palestinian struggle is changing for the better, using various boycott campaigns undertaken by groups like CodePink as cases in point. Our final event that quarter, “Artists Against Apartheid: Fred Moten and David Shorter in Conversation,” explored, among other issues, how and why it is incumbent upon all of us as students and academics to respect the Cultural and Academic boycott of Israel as another means of calling attention to the systemic disenfranchisement the Palestinian people are currently facing.
During week 5 of the Spring quarter, following a General Body meeting about SJP elections, we had a talk by Israeli peace activist Miko Peled; titled “Beyond Zionism: Hope in Peace for Palestine,” the presentation was a frank assessment of the untenability of the status quo regarding Israel/Palestine, and the subsequent need for a radical reformulation of state policy and international involvement.
After this came SJP’s “Nakba Week:” the first event of its kind put on by SJP UCLA, “Nakba Week” featured both a teach-in about the current situation of Palestinian refugees that emphasized the necessity of Israel respecting the Right of Return, in addition to a panel of Palestinian UCLA students discussing their families’ experiences of displacement, as well as reflecting on being a Palestinian in the diaspora and what the Nakba means to them. With Nakba week, SJP UCLA sought to bring a new dimension to its work, allowing for more of a focus on the plight of the Palestinians outside of the occupied territories. It is our hope that the conversations we began on these issues will continue to be explored in the following year.
Despite these victories, there is still much work to be done. With UCSA having passed two resolutions calling for divestment, the emphasis must now shift to following up with the Regents to ensure that this measure is taken. No doubt this will be the most difficult part of the process.
On the campus front, SJP UCLA must remain attuned to the need to balance BDS efforts with solidarity work with other communities, as well as conversations and events about the Palestinian experience, including outside the occupied territories. And, of course, all of this will need to transpire in the face of opposition from anti-Palestinian groups and administrators. But if the past year is to be any indication of what’s to come, all of us, board, active, and general members, will no doubt rise to the occasion.
By Kaleb Herman Adney
It was my understanding upon entry into the University of California, Los Angeles that Bruins upheld the “highest standards of excellence and integrity” while making “ethical choices” that “respect the dignity of others” as asserted by Gene D. Block, the UCLA chancellor. These values are hypothetical and they ignore the reality at our university: our integrity is conditional and the dignity of others is subjective.
The University of California is not upholding any standard of integrity in its blatant disregard for the dignity and human rights of Palestinians. Our university invests in companies that contribute to systemic discrimination and violence against Palestinians. These companies include Caterpillar, Cement Roadstone Holdings (CRH), Cemex, General Electric, and Hewlett-Packard. UCLA has not made a stance against the dehumanizing behavior of these companies and has, therefore, become implicit in their actions.
Caterpillar, for one, has ignored reports by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International about its violation of Palestinian dignity in providing the equipment, including heavy-duty tractors and bulldozers, used to demolish homes, water storage units, agricultural lands, and refugee camps in the West Bank and in Gaza. Destroying homes and residential property, as well as upholding segregation, are commonplace activities for Caterpillar.
Cement Roadstone Holdings and Cemex have both contributed to the construction of the separation barrier, a wall that reaches twenty-five feet high in some places. CRH and Cemex provide concrete and aggregate materials that the Israeli government has used in its construction of this wall, which separates family members from one another, farmers from their land, and children from their schools. These two companies have also upheld the construction of illegal settlements and military checkpoints dividing residential areas.
Hewlett-Packard has been an integral part of the checkpoint system in the West Bank. HP provides the technology for the Basel System, a complex network used in checkpoints, 85% of which are in the Palestinian West Bank not on the Israeli border, to collect and store information about Palestinians. This system prevents people from moving freely between their places of work, schools, orchards, and homes. One of my acquaintances in Ramallah, for example, is separated from his family in Jerusalem by these checkpoints and is unable to legally spend evenings with his wife and children.
General Electric is a company that provides parts for A64 Apache helicopters, which the Israeli Defense Forces have used to indiscriminately attack citizens in Gaza. The United Methodist Church, along with human rights groups such as Amnesty International, have condemned GE for its contribution to violence in the Occupied Territories.
Each of these companies contributes directly to violations of Palestinian rights and benefits economically from violence against Palestinians. These companies are not neutral; they are invested in the oppression of people. To be clear, they make money off of this situation. When we students allow the university to invest in companies that behave this way we allow laissez faire economics to subjugate our ethical will.
Divestment is not a term for any student on campus to fear. It is a tactic by which we reclaim our political agency, as shown most recently by the “Resolution to Divest Undergraduate Students Association Council and UC Los Angeles Finances from Corporations Profiting from the Prison Industrial Complex”, which passed unanimously on February 4. It is us as students taking responsibility for what we are invested in and benefit from. It is us saying that these companies don’t live up to our standards as a university, and should not be in our endowment and retirement funds until they do live up to those standards.
Right now, UCLA is invested in these companies and thereby we are taking a stance against Palestinians’ freedom to move and live safely. The ethical choice that would respect the dignity of others is to not invest in these companies. To stand on the right side of history we should condemn the oppression of Palestinians. We need to divest.