Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network expresses our solidarity with New York City Students for Justice in Palestine, coming under sustained attack from the Zionist movement as well as university administrations for their commitment to struggle for freedom, not only for Palestine and for the Palestinian people, but to liberate the university and struggle for the freedom of oppressed peoples and communities within the university and New York City.
NYC SJP has come under attack by the Zionist Organization of America, in a letter to City University of New York (CUNY) administration and in articles in the New York Post and elsewhere, demanding the silencing of SJP on CUNY’s 23 campuses. Claiming to represent the interests of Jewish students while in reality representing an organization whose very name reflects its deep commitment to racism, colonialism and the erasure of the Palestinian people and their existence, Morton Klein, ZOA president, stated that SJP “does not deserve a place” at CUNY.
The attack on NYC SJP is part of a concerted effort by the Zionist movement and the Israeli state on campuses across the United States and internationally in an attempt to silence the burgeoning movement in solidarity with the Palestinian people’s cause, the growth of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement and support for Palestinian liberation as a central cause for justice and liberation, against racism and colonialism, internationally. This has come not only through attempts to ban or decertify SJP groups, impose excessive security fees and scrutiny on events, cancel rooms, or deny resolutions or student referenda on Palestine on campuses across the United States, Canada and elsewhere. We also see here the attempts to pass anti-BDS legislation in US state and federal legislatures, the prosecution of BDS activists by the French state, the “condemnation” of BDS organizing by the Canadian state, and the attempt of the British state to threaten local communities who boycott Israel and other human rights violators.
These attempts to stifle the political, expressive and associational rights of students organizing for justice in Palestine, and indeed the broader movement for liberation in Palestine, go hand in hand with repressive surveillance, political imprisonment, the “state of emergency,” and the national security state and “anti-terror” policing. The same New York Police Department (NYPD) infamous for its “stop-and-frisk” policies targeting Black and other oppressed communities, not to mention the killing of Eric Garner, Ramarley Graham, Akai Gurley, Amadou Diallo, Sean Bell and many other victims of police violence and oppression, engaged in a multi-year surveillance, spying and repression program targeting Muslim communities in New York City – including students at CUNY.
Undercover police joined CUNY SJP chapters as well as Muslim Student Association and Islamic Student Organization groups in attempts to spy on and entrap students, while engaging in a mass surveillance dragnet of Arab, Muslim and South Asian communities across the city. This surveillance and infiltration also included the targeting of grassroots Palestinian and solidarity organizations in the city like Al-Awda New York for undercover police infiltration and surveillance..
It is in this context that CUNY administrators have expressed their denunciation or concern about SJP activities in response to complaints and charges like that of the ZOA, conflating anti-Zionism, which is anti-racist, anti-colonial, anti-imperialist and anti-oppressive, with anti-Semitism and conflating Jewish students with the racist Zionist movement, while allowing Muslim students to be targeted by the organized forces of the state infiltrating student organizations for surveillance and repression. Furthermore, it is Zionist organizations on campus that not only advocate in favor of a racist state, but as NYC SJP notes, “these organizations honor and invite advocates of the use of rape as a tool of war like Mordechai Kedar to campus, as Hunter Students for Israel, Hunter Hillel, the Zionist Organization of America, and United Jewish Appeal attempted to do.”
NYC SJP is an organization of youth that is committed not only to the liberation of Palestine but to the liberation of the university itself: “to liberate CUNY for the people, building a University which teaches the real history of the oppressed people of New York City and the world, in order to prepare students not to maintain the world as it is, but to overthrow it.” It refuses to view the struggle inside the university as one outside the context of social oppression, racism, and exploitation. Thus, it also views the struggle for the liberation of Palestine as one that is central to the struggle against all forms of racism and oppression, and critical to the struggle to defeat imperialism and gain liberation for the peoples of the world. It is no surprise, then, that the same forces that are based on racism, imperialism and oppression are seeking by any means to disrupt and undermine their organizing.
These ongoing attempts to silence Palestine activism – not only at CUNY, but at campuses across the U.S. and around the world – go hand in hand with U.S. and other state policies that seek to criminalize Palestinian resistance and organizing. The creation of lists of “Foreign Terrorist Organizations” by the U.S., Canada, U.K, European Union and others often proscribe most major Palestinian political parties and organizations – mirroring Israeli military orders outlawing Palestinian parties as “prohibited organizations” – and seeking to sever both the Palestinian diaspora and the solidarity movement from the Palestinian organizations leading the struggle for the freedom of the Palestinian people through the means of state repression and criminalization.
Students in Palestine are constantly subject to arrest, torture and imprisonment on the basis of their political activity. Student union offices are raided, and members arrested and imprisoned – often held under administrative detention without charge or trial – by the Israeli occupation due to their activity in student blocs and organizations. Palestinian journalist Mohammed al-Qeeq, who just ended a 94-day hunger strike for freedom, is the former president of Bir Zeit University’s student union; folkloric dancer Lina Khattab was imprisoned for 6 months for participating in a student protest to free Palestinian political prisoners; Asmaa Qadah, secretary of Bir Zeit’s student union, was arrested in January and sent to administrative detention without charge or trial. Their student unions, blocs and organizations – representing the whole spectrum of Palestinian politics – are frequently designated supporters of “prohibited organizations.”
Just as the military orders labeling “prohibited organizations” are used to imprison thousands of Palestinians, including political leaders and elected representatives, the so-called “terror lists” are used to criminalize Palestinian activism internationally. The case of the Holy Land Five, and before that, the case of Sami al-Arian, highlight the nefarious use of such laws in order to imprison Palestinian activists raising money for Palestinian charities and suppress independent Palestinian fundraising and support outside the structures of international donor funds and NGOs. Furthermore, the case of Rasmea Odeh – herself a former Palestinian political prisoner in Israeli jails, a survivor of torture, rape and sexual assault, now facing prosecution on immigration charges – emerged from a multi-year FBI infiltration and investigation of Palestinian and solidarity activists on the basis of suspicion of “material support” for Palestinian political parties and organizations. We also see the case of Georges Ibrahim Abdallah, imprisoned for 32 years in French prisons as a Lebanese Arab communist struggler for Palestine, and the targeting of Omar Nayef Zayed for extradition in Bulgaria, as part of an ongoing campaign of repression against the Palestinian liberation struggle.
Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network stands with New York City Students for Justice in Palestine, all the SJPs on CUNY campuses, and all who face repression, silencing, imprisonment, and attacks for their participation in the struggle for justice and liberation for Palestine.