By Omar Mansour
“I know what America is. America is a thing you can move very easily, move it in the right direction.” This quote from current Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaking to Israeli settlers in the West Bank in 2001 shows why Americans would do well to educate themselves as to how they can be so easily moved when it comes to the Palestine-Israeli conflict.
This is why Students for Justice in Palestine will be screening “The Occupation of the American Mind: Israel’s Public Relations War in The United States.” The film sheds light on the mainstream media’s role in creating a pro-Israel narrative. Tune into most mainstream news outlets and you will find much more coverage in line with the Israeli narrative that ignores the Palestinian perspective. As a result, it leaves Israel’s human rights abuses largely unchallenged on the air. If they are challenged, they may be dismissed by the anchor and will usually go back to a core talking point.
Any American who follows the news will hear regular accounts of Palestinians committing acts of violence. Israeli government officials and spokespeople will be called on the air, and the message will reaffirm Israel’s right to defend itself. However, these news stories tell us almost nothing about why this violence exists in the first place. The media leads us to believe that Palestinians are inherently violent, anti-Semitic terrorists who cannot accept Israel as a Jewish state.
Yet the media ignores subjects that effect Palestinians every day: the military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the continued expansion of illegal Jewish-only settlements in Palestinian territory, home evictions and demolitions by the Israel Defense Forces, the separation wall, military checkpoints, bombing campaigns and the utter denial of Palestinians’ most basic human rights.
This elision of context is the essence of what is called “Hasbara,” or “explanation” in Hebrew. As the magazine Haaretz explains, “Hasbara” is a form of propaganda on an international scale, sanctioned by the Israeli government and primarily aimed at western countries and is meant to influence conversation in a way that positively portrays Israeli policies. “Hasbara” targets political elites and the public simultaneously through the mass media, and is carried out by government agencies, nonprofits, lobbying groups, students, journalists and bloggers.
Popular discourse about Gaza provides one good example of the effectiveness of “Hasbara.” Many argue that Israel withdrew all its settlements from Gaza in a gesture of good will and peace, when all they got in return was Hamas firing rockets at them. Israeli officials have repeated this go-to talking point in the midst of Israel’s horrific bombing campaigns on the Gaza Strip in 2008 and 2014.
Given this set of facts, one would be inclined to side with Israel. However, reality paints a different picture. The fact is that Israel never left the Gaza Strip. They withdrew their settlements, but they retain complete control over Gaza through land, air and sea; the Israel Defense Forces use giant walls, watchtowers, gun boats and military aircraft overhead. No Palestinian is allowed in or out of Gaza without Israel’s permission – for this reason, Gaza is often compared to an open-air prison. With these important details left out, Americans are left with only the pro-Israel narrative to refer to when forming their opinions.
The arguments raised in this submission are explored in greater detail in “The Occupation of the American Mind: Israel’s Public Relations War in The United States.” The film takes a close look at pro-Israel public relations efforts inside the U.S. and shows how the Israeli government, the U.S. government and pro-Israel advocacy groups work together to direct U.S. mainstream media coverage in favor of Israel and against Palestinians.
The film provides a complete analysis of Israel’s long fought battle for the minds of the American people, which has only intensified over the years due to widening international condemnation. As long as the United States continues to support Israel and its oppressive policies, Palestinians will see no change for the better. And the American government will support these policies as long as the American population tolerates them.
As a member of Students for Justice in Palestine at UCLA, I would like to invite those who completely disagreed with this piece as well as those who know nothing about the conflict to come watch this film with us and join in on a discussion with the executive producer Sut Jhally and founding Pink Floyd member Roger Waters.
The screening will be held Wednesday in James Bridges Theatre at 7:00 p.m. You can visit our Facebook page for more information and to reserve a free ticket. The worst it will do is change your mind.
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.
Thursday, November 15th
Students for Justice in Palestine at UCLA will hold a protest at Meyerhoff Park today to voice broad student opposition to the current Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip. We are proud to be joined by several student groups and campus allies.
The Gaza Strip remains illegally occupied by Israel.  Its military siege denies Gazans freedom of movement and adequate access to water, electricity, food, and other basic resources. Since November 8, over 20 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli aerial bombardment and more than 100 have been injured. Casualties have included children playing soccer, individuals attending funeral services, and an 11-month-old child. International law describes intentional attacks on civilians as war crimes or crimes against humanity.
These attacks come almost 4 years to the date since Operation Cast Lead, the Israeli assault on Gaza that resulted in roughly 1,400 Palestinian deaths. Several international legal investigations have accused Israel of war crimes and crimes against humanity. As a result of Cast Lead, Amnesty International has recommended an arms embargo against Israel to prevent it from attacking civilian populations.
In light of these facts, SJP at UCLA voices its support of the besieged population of Gaza, calls for their right to live free of occupation, and supports investigations and prosecutions of Israeli military officers for violations of international law.
Furthermore, SJP at UCLA voices its support for the Palestinian-led call for boycotts, divestments, and sanctions. We believe that the University of California should immediately cut financial ties to companies that aid, enable, and profit from Israeli violations of Palestinian rights and international law. In addition, we salute the student government at the University of California, Irvine, for its recent 16-0 vote to recommend divestment to the University of California. We look forward to further divestment efforts in the tradition of UCLA's history of social justice and equality.
In addition, we recommend to interested students, faculty, staff, and journalists the following resources:
Israel’s Latest Assault on Gaza: The Lie of Who Started It
Timeline: Israel's Latest Escalation in Gaza
Interview: Ali Abunimah on the situation in Gaza:
What is the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement?
 For a backgrounder on occupation law: http://imeu.net/news/printer0022758.shtml
 Effects of the blockade: http://imeu.net/news/article0019136.shtml
 Widely available at Ma'an News, Al Jazeera, Ha’aretz, etc.
 See the Rome Statute here: http://www.icc-cpi.int/NR/rdonlyres/EA9AEFF7-5752-4F84-BE94-0A655EB30E16/0/Rome_Statute_English.pdf
 Amnesty report: http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/MDE15/015/2009/en/8f299083-9a74-4853-860f-0563725e633a/mde150152009en.pdf
 see the Amnesty Report referenced above, and Human Rights Watch: http://www.hrw.org/world-report-2010/israel-occupied-palestinian-territories-opt and the Goldstone Report:http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrcouncil/specialsession/9/factfindingmission.htm
 Amnesty call: http://blog.amnestyusa.org/middle-east/new-amnesty-report-calls-for-comprehensive-arms-embargo-on-israel-and-hamas/
 Palestinian Centre for Human Rights call for accountability: http://www.pchrgaza.org/portal/en/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=8828:pchr-submits-written-and-oral-statement-to-the-21st-session-of-the-human-rights-council-&catid=149:human-rights-committee-hrc&Itemid=310
Irvine Divests: http://irvinedivest.org/#!/
By Liza Corr and Noor Eid
The Gaza Strip is a Palestinian territory located south of Israel. It is home to 1.7 million people, over half of whom are under the age of 18. The region has been under military siege by Israel since 2006, a policy which has denied Gazans freedom of movement and restricted their access to food, water, electricity and basic resources.
In 2006 senior Israeli official Dov Weisglass described Israeli policy toward Gaza saying that “the idea is to put the Palestinians on a diet, but not to make them die of hunger.” In 2010, the BBC revealed that Israel maintained a list of only 81 items that would be allowed into Gaza; at the time prohibited items included light bulbs, books, chocolate and pasta.
Israel’s siege of Gaza has been maintained with almost constant violence. Prior to the recent attacks, Israel had killed 71 and injured 291 Palestinians in Gaza this year. In the past, people trying to bring aid to Gaza have been arrested, attacked and killed, as was the case for American citizen Furkan Dogan.
In the past two weeks, Israel has begun a sustained bombardment of Gaza. Since November 7, Israel has killed 48 Palestinians and injured 450 more, with roughly half of all casualties and injuries being women, children, and the elderly.
Israeli leaders have also issued calls to completely shut off Gaza’s electricity, water and fuel supplies and Interior Minister Eli Yishai openly expressed the intention of sending “Gaza back to the Middle Ages.”
These attacks are sadly reminiscent of the 2008-2009 Operation Cast Lead, which resulted in 1,400 Palestinian casualties, the majority of whom were civilians.
Although the killing and bombing of civilians is appalling and morally indefensible, Israel claims to be doing it in response to rockets fired from the Gaza Strip. The evidence, however, shows that Israel began (and pre-planned) this latest round of violence.
Even if it had not, rocket fire does not justify its collective punishment of the Gaza Strip.
Those rockets are not isolated events but a response to Israel’s effective control and military oppression in Gaza and while they are wrong, they should be stopped through the international legal system, not used as excuses for large scale bombing campaigns.
Last Thursday, in response to these attacks, Students for Justice in Palestine held an emergency rally at Meyerhoff Park along with several student groups and campus allies, including the Afrikan Student Union, Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan, the Muslim Student Association, and Samahang Pilipino. The rally voiced student opposition to the recent attacks on Gaza by holding posters and banners, passing out fliers, and protesting in solidarity.
That same night, Students for Justice in Palestine hosted “Art Against Apartheid!” a night of spoken word and discussion that focused on how we at UCLA can put pressure on Israel to stop its human rights violations. One of the main campaigns discussed was the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, which uses citizen pressure to force Israel to change its policies. One example of this is Amnesty International’s call for an arms embargo of Israel, made in 2009 after the organization’s investigation of Israel’s attacks on civilians during Operation Cast Lead.
The boycott, divestment and sanctions movement is a way for students and all people of conscience to be active in ensuring Palestinian equal rights. Although our university currently has financial ties to companies that support Israel’s violations of international law, we believe this can change. On November 14, UC Irvine’s student government passed a historic resolution recommending divestment from companies that profit from Israel’s international law violations (through the sale of military hardware, checkpoint equipment and other machinery used to carry out illegal policies).
UC Irvine’s resolution is an example for all campuses, including UCLA. In the past, our university has divested from South Africa during apartheid and has improved worker conditions by implementing anti-sweatshop policies and by purchasing fair trade products.
Students should continue this tradition by supporting measures that hold Israel accountable to universal standards of human rights and international law. On behalf of Students for Justice in Palestine, we welcome a debate, moderated by a neutral third party, on the merits of the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.
Click here to read this article in the Daily Bruin.
By Asra Ziauddin
As students of UCLA, many of us are familiar with the attention grabbing wall put in Bruin Plaza once a year during Palestine Awareness Week. The information presented on the wall may seem convincing, but we do not know the extent of its validity when reading statements that aren’t always cited. Throughout the week, one panel seemed to be the most hotly contested, titled “Dispelling Myths: Face the Facts.” Since no sources were included on this problematic panel, I conducted my own research. There were a total of five supposedly dispelled myths- of which I detail my findings below. The words in italics are those taken directly from the panel.
Myth: Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East. Fact: This democracy only works for Jewish citizens. Six million Palestinian refugees have not been granted the right of return. Most would agree that respectable democracies exercise policies which apply equally to all citizens and protect their basic rights. However, upon examining current policies in the state of Israel, Israel’s government doesn’t seem to function as a normal, impartial democracy should. For instance, land ownership is not granted equally in the country; 90% of Israel’s land restricts non-Jewish individuals, even citizens, from owning it. Since 1948 the UN General Assembly’s Resolution 194, stating that all refugees wanting to return to their homes peacefully should be able to do so, has not been honored by the state of Israel. The Fourth Geneva Convention describes the refusal of repatriating displaced people as a violation of basic rights; violating basic rights is not the correct conduct for a respectable democracy.
Myth: Palestinians are the source of violence. Fact: The occupation of Palestine is the root cause of violence. Israel was formally established when Britain withdrew control on May 14, 1948. Arab states came to fight against Israel on May 15, according to official UN reports. However, examples of violence were noted long before May. More than one source recalls a violent massacre by Israeli forces occurring in April 1948 in the Palestinian town of Deir Yassin. The New York Times even reported on it, stating that a couple hundred people in the peaceful village were killed. Accounts from authors such as Henry Cattan, who wrote Palestine, the Arabs and Israel, said Israeli forces occupied Palestinian towns before May 14 as well. Thus, if Israeli forces occupied Palestinian lands before the Arab armies came in, and partook in massacres like that of Deir Yassin, the Palestinians were not the source of violence. The occupation began the violence.
Myth: Israel struck military targets only. Fact: The eyewitness accounts and images of mutilated women and children show that Israel struck the civilian population. Findings gathered by B’Tselem, The Israeli Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, depict grim statistics. Both Israeli and Palestinian children, who we can definitely consider non-military targets, have died in the course of the conflict: 124 Israelis and 1,452 Palestinians to date since September 29, 2000. This data supports that fact that Israel and Palestine have killed civilians and not just “military targets.” It is important to take into consideration that these statistics illustrate an imbalanced number of killings, however.
Myth: Hamas violated the ceasefire, which led to the recent carnage in Gaza. Fact: Israel violated the ceasefire when it killed several Palestinians on November 4, 2008. The ceasefire mentioned here, beginning in June 2008 between Israel and Hamas, contained specific agreements. They included the expectations that Israel would halt all incursions into Gaza and Hamas would stop all rocket attacks into Israel. On November 5, 2008, BBC News reported on Israel’s incursion into Gaza, killing six Palestinians, prompting Hamas to retaliate with rocket attacks. We see from the news report that Israel violated the ceasefire first, followed by Hamas.
Myth: Muslims and Jews cannot get along. Fact: Prior to the to the occupation of Palestine in 1948, they lived in harmony. Several historical accounts illustrate that conflict was not always the case in the region. Don Peretz, a professor as well as author of The Arab-Israeli Dispute, recalls how there was virtually no conflict between the Jews and Arabs at the time. Sami Hadawi, writer of Bitter Harvest, describes the harmony evident between immigrant Jews and inhabitants of North Africa and the Middle East extending back to the Middle Ages.
To sum up, these myths are, essentially, myths. I urge anyone with doubts to my research or any statements I have included to visit the website www.ifamericansknew.org, which provided me with my sources. If anything, I hope examining the statements above somewhat clarified the issues revolving around Israel-Palestine and show that a proper understanding of political conflicts is crucial to understanding them.