Anti-Oppression Committee: Update from the Palestinian rights movement

Students for Justice in Palestine is a student group that educates and organizes in support of Palestinian rights. We focus on ending the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, full democratic rights for Palestinian citizens of Israel, and the rights of Palestinian refugees. One of the main campaigns that SJP works on is the effort to remove UC funds from companies that finance and enable the violation of Palestinian human rights. Members of our local can get involved and learn more about SJP by emailing uaw2865@uaw2865.org and asking to get in contact with our member run Anti-Oppression Committee.

Students for Justice in Palestine groups across the UC are asking for your support. Please sign this petition supporting the UCSA’s stance against HR35 and in support of student rights.

This summer has seen several important developments in the effort to silence pro-Palestine advocacy at the University of California. In July, the UC Administration released a Jewish Students Campus Climate Report that claimed that criticism of Israeli state policies constituted an attack on Jewish students and that recommended several forms of censorship of pro-Palestinian speech to prevent this perceived bigotry. Of course, criticism of Israel’s state policies is no more anti-Semitic than criticism of America’s policies is anti-American, but the effort to portray it as such fits a larger pattern of intimidation and censorship that has been documented and protested by groups ranging from the National Lawyers Guild and the Center for Constitutional Rights to the American Civil Liberties Union.

Shortly after the release of the Climate Report, the California Assembly passed HR35, a bill that endorsed the report, claimed that terms like apartheid were anti-Semitic when used to define Israel’s behavior towards the Palestinians, and recommended a crackdown on pro-Palestine speech at the UC.

Students and faculty have fought back, arguing that the report is flawed and a baseless attack on pro-Palestine speech (there are no substantive claims in the report). Many argue that the report failed to consider the viewpoint of Jewish students who themselves openly criticize Israeli policies and who engage in solidarity work with Palestinians. And evidence has emerged that testimonies of progressive Jewish students were knowingly excluded from the report in order to portray Jewish opinion as uniformly supportive of Israel. Recently, the University of California Students Association (UCSA) passed a bill rebuking the California Assembly for HR35 and reaffirming students right to call for boycotts, divestments, and sanctions (BDS) against companies involved in human rights abuses in Israel or elsewhere.

Today, the Climate Reports remain under review, and pro-Palestinian students and faculty hope that sustained pressure and public awareness will help defeat recommendations that would subject pro-Palestine speech to monitoring and censorship unlike the speech of any other political organization.

In addition, the UCSA has come under attack for its bill rebuking HR 35. Pro-Israel groups are trying to persuade it to reverse its vote by claiming that it excluded and offended Jewish students (they are inappropriately claiming to speak on behalf of all Jewish students). These groups realize that the affirmation of BDS as a means to achieve human rights is another signal that the growing consensus around Palestinian rights will one day result in BDS resolutions passing across the UC system, like has already happened at UC Irvine.

Students for Justice in Palestine groups across the UC are asking for your support. Please sign this petition supporting the UCSA’s stance against HR35 and in support of student rights.

If you would like to learn more about Palestine, we recommend this short video by Jewish Voice for Peace and the excellent news sites The Electronic IntifadaMondoweiss, and The Institute for Middle East Understanding. You can also find the UC SJP archive online.

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