Statement on Blue Jay Painting

This week, many organizations around the world are holding events for “Israel Apartheid Week in solidarity with Palestinian resistance against settler colonialism. As part of this week, we at Hopkins Students for Justice in Palestine painted “End Israeli Apartheid” over a Palestinian flag on the Blue Jay statue Wednesday morning. The response to this action by some members of the Hopkins community has demonstrated a lack of understanding of the term apartheid.

Apartheid – a term originally coined to describe the systematic discrimination and segregation in South Africa between 1948 and 1991 – refers to “an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups and committed with the intention of maintaining that regime” (see: 2002 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, Article II, included in full below). Article II also states that “the term “racial discrimination” shall mean any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life.” (emphasis added)

We, Hopkins Students for Justice in Palestine, do not use the word apartheid lightly or for controversy’s sake. We use it to accurately describe atrocities committed in Palestine/Israel, and to shed light on how exactly they manifest. In the West Bank, we have the most obvious parallels with the South African experience. There, Israel maintains a system of separation geared toward privileging the 600,000 Jewish Israelis who live in settlements beyond the Green Line. They receive generous benefits from the state; access to education, jobs, and services; and are subject to, and protected by, Israeli law. Palestinians who live in the same territory, on the other hand, face a different set of circumstances: land confiscations and home demolitions; decaying infrastructure and schools; and martial law, harsh sentences, and extended imprisonment without trial. Within Israel itself, the situation is more complicated. Palestinian citizens of the state enjoy voting rights, but face numerous forms of institutional discrimination. Perhaps the most glaring is Israel’s Law of Return, which gives any Jewish individual the right to full citizenship in Israel. Palestinian refugees are offered no such luxury. In the Gaza Strip, Israel controls the movement of goods and people into and out of the area, and has maintained a veritable siege since 2005. As it stands, Gaza’s unemployment rate is the highest in the world, and nearly all of the enclave’s water is undrinkable. Grinding poverty is punctuated by regular assaults on the territory, which have claimed thousands of lives. Apartheid has manifested: according to a recent UN report, the territory will be uninhabitable by 2020.
The extensive backlash at the usage of the term apartheid – in relation to Israel – stems from those who either participate in it, or are complicit in it. The painting over of the Palestinian flag on our campus this week was a microaggression geared towards silencing any criticism of the Israeli settler state. We invite anyone interested in pursuing justice in Palestine learn more by joining us in our weekly meetings. We encourage our allies to remain steadfast in the fight against racism, imperialism, and settler colonialism everywhere.

 

In solidarity,

Hopkins SJP

Hopkinssjp@gmail.com

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Open letter to the MSE Symposium

To the Organizers of the Milton S. Eisenhower Symposium:

We submit this open letter in protest of Alan Dershowitz’s inclusion as part of this year’s Milton S. Eisenhower (MSE) Symposium. This letter adds to the diverse coalition of undergraduate student groups that oppose bestowing Dershowitz with such an honor. As the only student group on campus focused on Palestine solidarity activism, Hopkins Students for Justice in Palestine would like to add to the growing opposition to Dershowitz’s invitation and calls for:

  1.  Accurate representation of Dershowitz’s academic and professional background

The title of Dershowitz’s lecture, “Global Perspectives on Justice and Civil Liberties,” has perpetuated the assumption that he is both a legal authority and an expert on the Middle East.[1] However, conflating his legal background with his political commentary dangerously gives the misleading and inaccurate impression that Dershowitz is an objective scholar with extensive academic training and engagement with the histories, cultures, and peoples of the Middle East. While Dershowitz claims to be a defender of free speech, his decades-long efforts to silence and intimidate supporters of a just resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict reveal that his support of free speech extends only to those who agree with his position—an unabashedly anti-Arab one. Written in the opening days of the 2006 July War, Dershowitz’s racist arithmetic[2] deems the lives of Arabs (always-already assumed to be terrorists) to be of less worth than Israeli ones. This logic of the killable Arab, Palestinian, and/or Muslim terrorist extends to Dershowitz’s published statements on the use of torture, drone warfare, and targeted killings.[3]

  1.  Transparency and balance

Critics of Palestine solidarity activism nearly always call for “balance” as a way of diminishing the legitimacy of events, speakers and political statements of groups such as Students for Justice in Palestine. We point to the hypocrisy of such calls when one of our most prestigious speaker series is comprised of not one, but two individuals who are outspoken, staunch advocates of Israel. In addition, we demand transparency on the part of the University and the MSE Symposium by making details about the sources, amounts, and any caveats of funding (as well as any remuneration and expenses paid to or on behalf of invited speakers) publicly available. This information should be made available now and in the future

  1.  Addressing anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, and anti-Arab prejudices

Dershowitz’s unrestrained characterization of opponents of the Israeli Occupation and supporters of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement as anti-Semitic is a means of silencing dissent. We are particularly alarmed by the appropriation and widespread use of this (as well as discourses of “civility”) as a tactic to curb open discussion of Palestine-Israel and delegitimize individuals and groups that recognize the self-determination of the Palestinian people. Dershowitz and his partisans therefore contribute to the particular climate of fear and hostility faced by Palestinian, Arab, and Muslim students, staff, and faculty, as well as their allies.

The repercussions of anti-Arab and anti-Muslim speech are very acutely felt by members of our own community, especially those who are persistently confronted with the effects of Islamophobic fear-mongering. As such, we call for the University administration to acknowledge that criticism of Israel and its proponents is not inherently anti-Semitic, a charge that has been hurled at the sponsors of the aforementioned letter of protest.[4] Rather, the use of such a blatant, irresponsible charge to indiscriminately silence opponents does a disservice to the long history of suffering caused by anti-Semitic discourses, as well as to those who continue to recognize and fight anti-Semitism in its many forms.

  1.  Alternative engagement with Dershowitz

We would like to echo our colleagues by calling upon the organizers of the MSE Symposium to acknowledge the attack on the university community that Dershowitz’s inclusion as part of this series represents. We do not, however, seek to bar Dershowitz from speaking on campus. Instead, we hope that our community might engage with Dershowitz without according him the same honor and distinction with which we welcomed Civil Rights activist and writer Maya Angelou (MSE 1990), anti-apartheid activist and President of South Africa Nelson Mandela (MSE 2003), and others who have demonstrated the highest degree of integrity and character. By offering an alternative engagement on campus, we trust that our community will be able to consider Dershowitz’s remarks and follow the standard of academic rigor that the members of this institution strive to hold themselves to.

Hopkins Students for Justice in Palestine

[1] See the JHU Newsletter’s “MSE Speaker Controversy Raises Issues of Free Speech, Values” , Oct 8, 2015.

[2] Alan Dershowitz, “Arithmetic of Pain,” The Wall Street Journal, July 19, 2006.

[3] See Alan Dershowitz’s Five-Part Series of Op-Eds: War of Principles?

[4] See recent articles in campus publications, including JHU Politik and the Hopkins News-Letter.

Baltimore stands with Gaza!

As the Israeli bombardment and invasion of Gaza continues to claim Palestinian lives, Baltimore activists have been organizing protests and engaging in direct action in solidarity with the Palestinian people. We join cities cities across the world, from Toronto and Berlin to Istanbul and Durban, in condemning Israeli aggression and demanding an end to the killing.

‘The IDF deserves a Nobel Peace Prize for “unimaginable restraint”’ says Israeli Ambassador to US

On Monday, a group of Baltimore activists, several from Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) and Hopkins Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), joined an action organized by JVP and Code Pink in Washington DC. Activists posed as conference attendees to disrupt Ron Dermer, Israeli ambassador and keynote speaker in front of 5,000 supporters at Christians United for Israel’s (CUFI) “A Night to Honor Israel” event.

Dermer shared the stage with John Hagee, Founder of CUFI, Lindsey Graham, a US senator from South Carolina, and a personalized message from Benjamin Netanyahu, each of whom delivered a terrifying message, demanding uncompromising support for Israeli aggression and settlement expansion. Protesters gathered outside the convention center to denounce the Israeli attacks on Gaza and CUFI’s hateful rhetoric. Inside, members of the crowd hit, spit on and choked activists, who shortly after disrupting Dermer were dragged from the convention center by security.

The same day in Baltimore, several JVP activists met outside the Jewish Community Center in Owings Mills to engage with attendees and protest the presence of an Israeli embassy official.

Baltimore says ‘Hey-ho, Israeli troops have got to go!’

On Thursday JVP, SJP and other local activists organized a rally on the corner of 33rd and St. Paul. The demonstration coincided with a National Day of Action, with Baltimore joining hundreds of actions in cities across the United States.

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Nearly 150 people, representing a diverse range of political, religious and community affiliations,  joined the demonstration. For several hours, protesters took over the four corners the busy cross-street, waving signs and Palestinian flags and demanding an end to the assault on Gaza.

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Check out more photos and videos on our Facebook page.

The demonstration received wide TV, radio and print coverage, including The Baltimore Sun, City Paper, WBAL TV, WBAL 1090 AM, CBS Baltimore, and the Baltimore PostExaminer. There was also a considerable police presence, but with the exception of an officer who prevented activists from hanging a banners on a fence, there was little interference.

Present at the demonstration were family members of Muhammad Abu Khdeir, who was kidnapped and burnt alive by Israeli nationalists in Jerusalem, and Tariq Abu Khdeir, the Baltimore-native who was savagely beaten by Israeli police.

The large numbers of supporters that came out evidence that a growing number of people in the United States stand with Palestinian people to demand an end to Israeli occupation, colonization and apartheid.

Not yet done…

As of this writing, the bombing and ground invasion has killed more than 1000 men, women and children. Protests will continue as long as Israeli aggression does not cease. Join us this Wednesday, 5:30, at Penn Station for a solidarity march and rally at Charles St. and North Ave.

And on August 2nd, come to DC for a mass demonstration at the White House.

Open Letter on Palestinian Academic Freedom

We, the undersigned members of the Johns Hopkins University community, express solidarity with our Palestinian colleagues, whose academic freedom has been curtailed and stifled by the Israeli occupation. As individuals of conscience, we believe it is our ethical and moral responsibility to support our peers abroad by protesting the systematic attacks and restrictions enforced by Israeli authorities on Palestinian students, teachers, and educational institutions.

Decades of direct and indirect Israeli military rule in the West Bank and Gaza as well as discriminatory policies and practices inside the borders of the Israeli state have severely undermined the academic freedoms of Palestinians and their educational institutions. The long-standing policy of Israel to deny Palestinian refugees the right of return ensures that future generations will inherit the troubling educational conditions characteristic of life in refugee camps scattered across the neighboring countries of Lebanon, Syria and Jordan.

In the occupied West Bank and Gaza, Israel controls internal movement and international travel. Palestinian professors face severe restrictions on teaching or attending conferences internationally, while university students are often hindered from pursuing their studies abroad or have been forced to reject research opportunities and scholarships. For many Palestinians, traveling to the next town can at times prove just as difficult as traveling abroad. In the occupied West Bank, students and teachers have faced years of military checkpoints, curfews, and obstacles to their freedom of movement. Schools and universities have been subject to random closures and military invasions.

It is similarly difficult for international academics and scholars to visit or establish working relationships with Palestinian universities, as they are routinely denied entrance visas by Israel. Recently, both Noam Chomsky, Professor Emeritus at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Salim Vally, Senior Researcher at the University of Johannesburg, were invited by Palestinian universities to give lectures, but were ultimately denied entry. The practicalities of entry into Israel have made international scholars and students increasingly reluctant to accept invitations to teach or study at Palestinian universities.

American academics and students are increasingly recognizing the need to respond to Palestinian demands for justice. The recent decision of the American Studies Association (ASA) to support the call of Palestinian civil society for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions is one tactic to challenge those complicit in maintaining Israel’s occupation. Responding to the ASA’s decision, President Ronald J. Daniels and Provost Robert C. Lieberman of Johns Hopkins University have voiced concerns for Israeli scholars, worrying that an academic boycott will have a “profound impact […] on the scholars who form the intellectual heart” of Israeli universities. What is glaringly absent from these responses is an acknowledgement of Israel’s longstanding assault on Palestinian education and concern for the academic plight of Palestinians.

We invite the Johns Hopkins community to stand in solidarity with our Palestinian colleagues. Together, we can collectively transform our university community into one that recognizes injustice in its myriad forms and fights for the protection of educational access and academic freedom for all.

To express your support for this letter and you are Hopkins affiliated, sign it at http://tinyurl.com/mztur59

For more information, you can email us at hopkinssjp@gmail.com, or find us at www.facebook.com/hopkinssjp

What did Palestine look like in 1896?

Hummus For Thought

A film footage of Palestine in 1896 was recently published online thanks to Lobster Films. It shows Palestinians of all faiths – Christians, Jews and Muslims – living side by side, and praying side by side. I transcribed the narration below.

15 years later, the cinema is taking its first steps. Cameramen employed by the Lumiere Brothers filming in Jerusalem’s station, provide the first moving pictures taken in Palestine. From now on, the camera’s a recording eye and what it records is this: A society much like that of Cairo, Damascus, or Beirut, in an Arab city much like any other.

By the end of the 19th century, Palestine has 500,000 inhabitants, of whom 30,000 live in Jerusalem. A veiled woman, a Sunni Muslim, one of the majority. An orthodox Jew. He too turns away from the camera. Here we have an Armenian pope. Each of the Christian denominations…

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Response to the President’s Statement on the ASA Boycott

Dear Faculty, Students, and Staff:

Over the winter intersession, President Daniels and Provost Lieberman sent out a university-wide letter condemning the American Studies Association’s (ASA) decision to honor the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) call. The letter expresses concern that the ASA’s decision wrongly holds Israeli educational institutions accountable for Israeli state policy as well as its potential to close off avenues for Israeli scholars to express and exchange ideas. Missing from their statement is concern for the academic freedom of Palestinian students and scholars, whose educational institutions, scholars and students have been subject to decades of Israeli military occupation and settler colonialism.

Academic freedom in the West Bank and Gaza – the land remaining for Palestinians after the 1948 Nakba – has been under constant threat as a result of nearly half a century of Israeli military rule. Israel controls the movement of Palestinians across their own borders, determining who may enter and who may leave. Palestinian professors face severe restrictions on studying or attending conferences internationally, and university students are denied the ability to study abroad. Recently, several Fulbright scholars lost their scholarships because Israel refused to let them out of the Gaza Strip.

For Palestinians, traveling to the next town can at times prove just as difficult as traveling abroad. In the occupied West Bank, students and teachers — from elementary school to university — have faced years of Israeli army-imposed restrictions on movement. Checkpoints and closure have damaged the educational experience of generations of students. Prolonged occupation by an advanced military has seriously damaged schools and other infrastructure, while military restrictions have made it impossible (effectively illegal, in fact) for many schools to expand and accommodate growing numbers of students.

Nor can international academics and scholars easily study or visit Palestinian universities, as they are routinely denied entrance visas by Israel. Noam Chomsky and Salim Vally are just two recent examples of scholars invited to present lectures in the occupied Palestinian territories, but denied entry at the border. Studying abroad at Palestinian universities is not much easier. Since Israel does not provide student visas for international students in the occupied Palestinian territories, many students have been unable to complete their studies after being denied re-entry.

Israeli educational institutions are not innocent of their government’s policies, but instead have long been implicated in the occupation. Universities are constructed on settlements, contribute to military training and research, and fail to challenge racist laws and discriminatory practices that characterize the daily life of Palestinian citizens of Israel, both on and off campus. The academic boycott serves as a non-violent means to hold Israeli academic institutions accountable.

None of this is new. But when have leading figures at Johns Hopkins felt compelled to speak out in defense of Palestinian students and scholars? We agree with the President and Provost that as students and scholars in the U.S. it is important for us to support, through words and actions, the freedom of our peers and colleagues abroad to engage in scholarly activities and collaboration. It is precisely this commitment which motivates the ASA resolution, and which motivates us to express support for the call from Palestinian civil society for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions, a call endorsed by a large number Palestinian universities and academics, as well as a small group of Israeli scholars (many of whom face shocking levels of harassment on account of their stance). It is our Palestinian colleagues that are in dire need of support, as they have been subject to pervasive and ongoing restrictions on freedoms of inquiry, expression, scholarship, and the exchange of ideas with their international peers and colleagues. And until Israel ends its occupation and colonization of Palestinian land, abolishes its racist laws, and agrees to a just solution, it is up to us to stand in solidarity with our Palestinian colleagues.

Signed,

Hopkins Students for Justice in Palestine