Movement to Defend Palestinian Rights Grows on College Campuses
By DAVID BERNT
As the Zionist state of Israel continues its war in the West Bank, activists on campuses across the nation have rallied in support of the Palestinian people.
In February, some 450 student activists attended the Student Conference of the Palestine Solidarity Movement held in Berkeley and launched a national organization, Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP). The conference initiated a nationwide campaign demanding divestment from Israel and an end to US Aid to Israel.
On April 9, SJP chapters established at campuses across the country held a national day of action in support of the Palestinian struggle. In Berkeley, a rally and demonstration of 1200 students was held, demanding that the university divest from Israel. A non-violent sit-in was held at Wheeler Hall, resulting in 79 arrests. The students who were arrested face possible suspension from school in addition to criminal charges.
Following this demonstration, the university administration suspended the SJP chapter from holding events on campus. This action was a clear attack on a burgeoning political movement and has set off a free speech movement reminiscent of the Berkeley campaign in the 1960s of the same name.
SJP members in Berkeley have continued to set up literature tables on campus, “in defiance of what we believe to be an unjust restriction on SJP’s right to speak, distribute literature and assemble.” Although the university administration has threatened the students with “additional charges” if they display their literature, SJP activists say they will keep on defying the administration’s direct attack on their political rights.
On May 2, a large rally was held on campus in solidarity with the victimized students. All students should come out in their support.
Other campuses have continued building public support for the divestment campaign. SJP activists at the University of Illinois at Urbana have held weekly protests. Students from North Carolina State, Duke, and the University of North Carolina held a joint demonstration.
SJP activists at DePaul University in Chicago held a rally of 75 students in the Student Center. Similar events took place at campuses across the country. SJP activists were also key in mobilizing students for the April 20 demonstrations in Washington.
New layers of student activists have been drawn into the campaign to end the U.S.-backed Israeli regime’s war against the Palestinian people. This movement comes in the midst of a growing international solidarity movement that has included demonstrations of millions across the world in support of the Palestinians. The new campus-based solidarity actions are a promising component of this developing mass movement.