This past weekend 5 of us from Hampshire SJP went to the NSJP conference at Columbia University in NYC. Attending the conference were students from all over the US. The days were organized into times for workshops and times for organizing goals for a national SJP structure. Everyone was so enthused with excitement and brilliance, it was wonderful to see how much the movement has grown since the BDS conference in 2009 at Hampshire. We spent a lot of time figuring out a way to create a supportive network between all of these different SJP’s without making it to complex or to bureaucratic. We desire a way to stay in contact with on another and a way to build power to influence institutional structures. These discussions are always difficult but important. Do we do it by voting members onto a coordinating committee, or do we do it by volunteers, how often do they meet, what work would this body of people do specifically etc? What impressed me most was the dedication to the process by the conference organizers and all of us who participated. Even though we were not always in full agreement about the specifics of “how” we all knew very clearly “why!” The over all structure is still being worked out, but we did agree on three basic points of unity. They are the points that were laid out by Palestinian civil society in 2005:
1. Ending Israel’s occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall;
2. Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and
3. Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194.
I am excited to see what comes next with national sjp networking. There seemed to be a lot of agreement about putting together an online archival space to share posters, flyiers, and other media from events we host.
Report Back from workshops:
I went to a workshop about de-constructing privilege in SJP spaces. We discussed both dynamics internal to organizing such as who takes up space, language that is used, whose voice carries weight etc. And we talked external ways privilege shows up, such as who speaks to the media, who introduces events etc. We spoke a lot about the ways white jewish voices are often seen as more credible/unbiased/less emotional in the US. We discussed ways to try to combat this assumption by prioritizing Palestinian voices. Those of us whom where Jewish also talked about beginning any talk by explaining the importance to listen first to those voices who are directly effected. I really appreciated hearing the different experiences of SJP’s around the country, many of which are extremely different than the little bubble of hampshire college.
On sunday I went to a workshop on media that was fantasic and is a large part of why I spent the past two days prettying up this website 🙂 (thanks Andrew Kadi). In the afternoon I gave a talk at the lessons learned from past divestment campaigns. I shared the history of Hampshire Divestment, which is always helpful for me to rehash out. UC berkly, University of Michigan and Evergreen also shared their experiences! Its amazing how many schools are working on Divestment campaigns right now. All of them unique and all of them so brilliant! It is really quite hilarious that israeli lobbyist attempt to make out the BDS movement as some sort of master plot by a giant evil organization, when in fact it is literally a bunch of students just making it up on the fly with a lot of support for one another. Yes, of course we look for outside support and there are a few elders in Palestine and in the US that are really helpful, but most of these campaigns have been started and grown solely through the hard work of the SJP students on respective campuses.
The national SJP conference was just the kind of overwhelming, difficult and messy cacophony of excitement that a wonderful experiment in democratic,passionate organizing should be. Seeing students from over 100 schools from around the US, united by a shared belief that imperialism is not only wrong and illegal, but breakable by the will of the people, at this moment in the case of Palestine– where the cruelty of occupation is heart wrenching in its clarity of profit and murder, and yet where the audacity and resilience of the people’s struggle is so inspiring to all who take time to see it.
I went to a workshop about Indigenous resistance from Hawaii to the US to Chiapas to Palestine. The conversation centered on the importance of respecting the right to self-determination of indigenous people and how far the US is from actually doing that regarding the hundreds of Native American tribes within the country’s borders. We touched on what indigineity is, the case studies of the Free Hawaii movement and Palestine and the way in which histories of colonized spaces and nations tend to follow similar narratives and ideological trends.For example, histories of the conquerors/colonizers in both the US and Israel detail the process by which the colonizers struggled through physical and social hardship and gained a certain virile strength, which incorporates a distinct sense of male domination, from their role as settlers. Furthermore,both see the importance of the colonial populous imbibing, appropriating and then celebrating indigenous resources and cultural phenomena. This is clear when Israelis brand hummus, falafel and Arabic music as Israeli or Jewish and market it to themselves and the world as such; at their most arrogant point,some have even taken the Palestinian symbol of resistance, the keffiyeh, dyed it blue and white and marketed it as an Israeli scarf! I have seen these multiple times around the necks of Zionist students in the US. The workshop further connected such examples to the ultimate USA example: the myth of Thanksgiving, in which white settlers were “given” food composed of all the new indigenous crops they had never seen until the “New World” (pumpkin, squash, N American turkey, etc.). Using these plants, they made the foods that American settlers’ descendants now eat every year (pumpkin pie, roasted turkey, etc.) on this thoroughly dominated and stolen territory in celebration of a false friendship between oppressor and oppressed that sheds little light on the majority of interactions between the two, as they were steeped in racism, economic plunder and a culture of rape and violence. The workshop was eyeopening and wonderful in its ability to turn the spotlight back on us and implore us to do more to stand with indigenous people in our own communities.
The conference brought together over 100 schools for workshops, plenaries, and a concert. I attended two great workshops. The first positioned israel as a settler-colonial state and discussed its connections with the United States as an interlinked colonizing power. Understanding these connections are essential in order to recognize the hegemonic powers that Indigenous peoples of the Americas and Palestine are resisting. The other workshop focused on Palestinian Political and Youth prisoners. Since 1967, israel has imprisoned over 650,000 Palestinians. Israel can incarcerate any Palestinian without a legal conviction for 180 days (but because of their current and blatant violations of international law one wonders what any motivation would be for israel to abide by this rule). The documented cases of torture in israel’s prisons are more than abhorrent, and every Palestinian has some connection to israel’s incarceration and torture. Over 40% of Palestinian males have been imprisoned.
I went to a workshop on indigeneity and settler colonialism. The talk, given by
Dr. J. Kehaulani Kauanui, linked the struggles of American Indians and native
Hawaiians to the Palestinian struggle against Zionist settler colonialism.
While the talk did not focus specifically on the need for coalition-building
work, it provided a base of material from which to examine SJP’s relationship
to groups promoting indigenous rights and indigenous immigrants(the oxymoron
SHOULD be lost on no one). It also raised important questions about the Occupy
___ movement and the need for critical intervention in discussions of native
rights and language. I went to a talk that was focused specifically on
coalition-building. Groups focused on indigenous struggles, immigrant rights,
issues of/for people of color, and prison justice. The need for personal
contact with these groups was made clear in the presentation. The last talk was
on the situation of Palestinian political prisoners. It was informative and
helped in considering how to relate to the emergent five college group Students
Against Mass Incarceration.