Community Voices: An Interview with Students for Justice in PalestineWritten by Stacy Jurich | | email@example.com
Founded in 2011 as “a voice for human rights”, Students for Justice in Palestine’s mission is to raise awareness and galvanize an education campaign about Palestine, the Israeli occupation and the United States’ involvement in the occupation.
Jurich: What are some of the myths portrayed in our media that SJP feels are false or misrepresentative of the actual reality of life in Palestine?
SJP: The most blatant and nefarious myth is that this is a showdown between two equal, opposing sides. This is completely and utterly false. Israel receives nearly $4 billion dollars of military “aid” every year from the United States and is equipped with the most pernicious and destructive military equipment of any country on Earth. The Palestinians, who are largely defenseless and civilian, at best, have homemade rockets, which are so ineffective that all the Jerusalem Post could run about their impact was how Israeli pets were scared by the sounds of the rockets.
Since 2008, over 1,500 Palestinians have been killed by the Israeli military machine, whereas even by inflated Israeli Defense Force numbers, less than 30 Israelis (most observers put this number at closer to 15) have been killed by the rocket attacks, and about one quarter of these were deaths during Israeli operations inside Gaza. More Israelis die every year from accidental falling than from Hamas rockets. So what we have here are not two, equal sides in a conflict, we have a situation where one population has been brutally harassed, dehumanized, had their land stolen, and forced into apartheid like conditions, and another side has the backing of the most powerful states in the world and the most advanced military technology.
The second myth is that this is a conflict since time immemorial. The origins of this conflict began in 1917, when Britain declared the Balfour Declaration that stated there would be a Jewish homeland carved into Palestine regardless of the Arab population living there. In 1948, 700,000 Arabs were ethnically cleansed from Palestine through violence and terror, and since then the state of Israel has encroached upon more Palestinian land and continually harassed, dehumanized, and erased Palestinian life, both physically and from history. This is the starting point; this is the origin of the conflict.
Jurich: SJP recently organized a well-attended candlelight vigil after the latest outbreaks and attacks on Gaza. What can come out of these gatherings in Toledo, and is there a buildup or momentum of resistance and protest around the world around the violence against Palestinians?
SJP: The outcome of these gatherings, and others like it, are that community members and people of conscience are beginning to see that this is not a “conflict” between two equal sides, but, like Desmond Tutu says, a situation of injustice where there is an oppressor and an oppressed. Our goal as an organization is to build off this growing awareness, and to use the momentum to push forward tangible campaigns such as the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.
TFP: What can individuals in Toledo do to support peace and justice in Palestine?
SJP: Individuals who support peace and justice in Palestine can begin by taking a stand against oppression and speaking out in favor of Palestinian liberation. The second step people can take is by actively engaging in the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement (BDSmovement.net) and specific BDS campaigns like the one found at WeDivest.org. As good as it is to have the awareness of the situation in your heart, we need more people willing to actively organize for justice in Palestine. Anyone who is interested in getting involved should also contact SJP at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jurich: Tell me about SJP’s involvement in the TIAA-CREF divestment campaign.
SJP: We stand in the shadow of past activists and organizers from the University of Toledo who have taken up the broad call for divestment, such as the Black Student Union activists who forced UT to divest millions of dollars from South Africa in the late 1980′s. As far as the TIAA-CREF campaign, it is part of the WeDivest campaign headed by the Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP). We are currently in the planning stages of the campaign, but we hope to begin the campaign sometime soon in the future.
TFP: Anything else that SJP wants Toledo to know?
SJP: May we one day see a free Palestine!