Letter to the Editor
On Jan. 26, Israeli forces conducted a raid on the Jenin refugee camp that resulted in the massacre of 10 Palestinians. Throughout January alone, 36 Palestinian were killed. Later on Feb. 6, five Palestinians were killed by the occupation forces in Jericho. This was the context in which the Brandeis chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) called for a protest in remembrance of the lives that were ended prematurely.
As students who were present at the protest held on Wednesday, Feb. 8 in support of Palestine, we have been reflecting on our experiences and the behavior of the Zionist counter-protestors.
Students at the protest with SJP were met with racist behavior from the predominantly white Zionist counter-protesters. The inappropriate responses of counter-protesters included laughing, cheering, and waving Israeli flags while a Palestinian student recounted having their travel documents taken and subsequently being made stateless, how a large number of people in their family were murdered in the 1948 Nakba, and how one of the recent victims of the aforementioned massacres was a high school classmate of theirs. Counter-protestors also reacted similarly when a Black student tearfully spoke about the connection between the police brutality in the United States which recently took the lives of Tyre Nichols in Memphis and Arif Faisal in Cambridge and the occupation that has killed untold numbers of people in Palestine.
This racist behavior indicates a complete disregard for the lives of oppressed people. While Zionist sympathetic organizations attempted to portray these counter-protestors as onlookers, this obfuscates the fact that they arrived in a coordinated fashion before the SJP protest which was held in remembrance of the 36 Palestinian martyrs killed by the occupation in January alone. The Zionist counter-protestors subsequently antagonized those of us at the protest and laughed at the mention of atrocities committed by the Israeli occupation and American police forces described above.
In the days since the protest, those among the anti-Palestinian opposition have been equating support of Palestine with antisemitism. This comes from the assertion that criticism of Israel is inherently antisemitic. To this we say, those that oppose Israel based on their hatred of Jewish people do exist and should be condemned. Members of SJP and its supporters are well aware of the dangers of antisemitism, with many being Jewish or members of other minority groups familiar with the bigotry that plagues our nation. Many organizations dedicated to the liberation of Palestine are diverse coalitions that oppose Zionism based on its colonial aspirations, as well as its apartheid system that grants different rights based on one’s birth.
We reject the assertion that support for Palestine is a form of antisemitism. Resistance to colonialism by oppressed peoples is always just, regardless of whether or not the colonizing force is composed of members of an oppressed group. This fact was upheld by the United Nations in General Assembly resolution 37/42, which “reaffirms the legitimacy of the struggle of peoples for independence, territorial integrity, national unity, and liberation from colonial and foreign domination and foreign occupation by all available means, including armed struggle.” We hold Israel to the same standards as any other country, including the nation in which we currently reside. We believe in a just solution — a unified Palestine that guarantees equal rights, representation, and justice for all its citizens, regardless of race, religion, or ethnicity, as has been called for by many members of the Palestinian resistance for some time.
The behavior of counter-protestors is made more concerning by the fact that many present hold positions of power in university-sanctioned organizations including the Student Union, Brandeis Hillel, and the Brandeis Israel Public Affairs Committee (BIPAC). One of these students was recorded at a prior event also expressing their support of the Israeli occupation. The video in question shows an event in New York Penn Station which we believe to have been hosted by the Palestinian solidarity organization Within Our Lifetime. In the video, the student can be seen and heard chanting “Nakba Nakba Nakba” while waving an Israeli flag, in praise of the horrific ethnic cleansing enacted by Israeli militias in 1948 which killed and displaced hundreds of thousands of Palestinians, including the family of the organizer of the protest on Wednesday.
We call on the student organizations empowering these students to condemn their racist behavior and remove them from their positions. We call on the Brandeis administration to take seriously the racism faced by Palestinian and Black students on campus by investigating the individuals perpetuating this racism.
In particular, we call on the University administration and Student Union to investigate and hold accountable the individual of whom there is video evidence praising the Nakba. The engagement of this individual in multiple public displays of bigoted acts up to and including the praise of ethnic cleansing demonstrates that this student is a danger to oppressed people at Brandeis, and therefore must at a bare minimum be removed from leadership positions and prevented from further harassing people of oppressed groups.
We additionally call on the student body to unite in the name of rooting out bigotry on campus by petitioning for the removal of bigoted students from positions of power and protecting oppressed members of our community from bigots and reactionaries who wish them harm.
Attendants of the 2/8 SJP protest
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