Growth, Unity, and Victories: Reflecting on a year of accomplishments since the first national SJP conference

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The 2012 National Students for Justice in Palestine Conference starts November 2nd at the University of Michigan. Organizers are asking for donations to help students attend the conference. They’re hoping to raise $15,000 for travel support, and are roughly 1/3 of the way there.

As we approach the one-year anniversary of the first National SJP Conference at Columbia University, it is worth reviewing developments in the campus Palestine solidarity movement.  Since October, 2011 students have 1) formed new SJP chapters from California to Kansas, 2) helped form regional solidarity networks like Chicago Divests, 3) joined BDS campaigns such as TIAA-CREF and De-Rail Veolia, 4) established important ties to MEChA, including their landmark national endorsement of BDS, 5) and passed BDS resolutions at three universities. These accomplishments reflect the growth of our movement and highlight the importance of creating national solidarity networks. We look forward to building on this progress during our upcoming conference at the University of Michigan from November 2 to 4, 2012.

As with any student-organized conference, we need the support of allies and donors to help offset travel costs for student activists. Please help students across the country attend this conference by making a donation at

1. New SJP chapters

We held a workshop at our first conference on “How to start and successfully run an SJP.” We did not know who would attend the session before we designed it, but that morning several students from small states walked in the door, eager for advice about how to create a sustainable student group, handle difficulties with their administrations, and withstand attacks and criticism from campus and local opponents of Palestinian rights. Those SJPs persist today and several more have formed in the past year. We recognize that helping students build strong SJPs is a vital function of the national conference, so this year we are again reserving conference space for students who wish to start an SJP and we will hold another workshop designed to help them get started. As we work to form a concrete national structure, we will continue to solidify and build resources that will help students build and sustain groups across the country.

2. Forming regional links

Another trend thathas continued over the past year is the increasing integration of SJPs with local activists. This has led to the formation of regional solidarity networks such as Chicago Divests and informal collaborations on events and campaigns. One example is the growth of Israeli Apartheid Week, during which campuses and local organizations hold joint events throughout cities from New York to San Francisco. This helps both groups reach larger audiences while pushing the question of Palestine into the public debate. It also helps SJPs stretch our limited budgets even farther, as groups can collaborate to bring speakers to multiple local events and share program and event costs.

3. Joining ongoing campaigns

AsSJPs increasingly collaborate with local groups, we have begun to see the growth of shared campaigns between students and community activists. The best example of this collaboration is the campaign to get the investment fund TIAA-CREF to relinquish holdings in companies that are complicit with the Israeli occupation. Students have become important partners in this campaign, because TIAA-CREF administers retirement funds for many universities. SJPs at universities like NYU are working to get professors to sign divestment petitions and hosting events that call the company to task for its practices. On the West Coast, Los Angeles area schools have been involved with De-Rail Veolia, a campaign to deny city bus contracts to Veolia on the grounds that it facilitates violations of international law and discriminatory policies. Student groups have hosted events, signed petitions, joined marches, and given testimony to public officials in support of this campaign.

4. Establishing meaningful solidarity with MEChA

In March, the largest association of [email protected] students in the country, MEChA (Movímíento Estudíantíl Chí[email protected] de Aztlán) overwhelmingly passed a resolution supporting the Palestinian call for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions. This is an exciting and meaningful development for SJPs; this year we hope to welcome MEChA’s delegates to the National SJP conference and to create increased collaboration between SJP and MEChA chapters around the country. Endorsements from allies such as MEChA are critical to the transformation of Palestine solidarity work into a central focusof campus politics.

5. BDS victories at four universities

Students know that the strongest and clearest expression of solidarity we can make is the passage of BDS resolutions through our student governments, as was done in the campaign against apartheid South Africa. The growth described above – more SJPs and stronger connections to community organizations and allied struggles – is producing clear progress in our struggle towards that goal. This year, SJPs marked BDS victories at Arizona State University (supported by MEChA), Earlham College, the University of Massachusetts – Boston, and Evergreen State College. Though there have been attempts to censor SJPs, particularly at the University of California, we view this as a sign of our increasing strength and confirmation that the debate on campus has shifted from whether Israel’s behavior is acceptable to what students must do to stop it. BDS campaigns at universities will continue to grow as long as students continue to share their skills and knowledge through movement building opportunities like the National SJP conference.

Support our growing student movement! We’ve made important strides in the past year, but with your help, we can and will do more. Every dollar you give helps students attend this important conference.

About Rahim Kurwa

Rahim Kurwa is an active member of Students for Justice in Palestine and is currently a graduate student in the Sociology Department at the University of California, Los Angeles.

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7 Responses

  1. Blaine Coleman
    October 10, 2012, 11:14 am

    I attended the first national divestment conference at Berkeley in February 2002.

    During the divestment workshop of that 2002 conference, we were told that any campus campaigns to divest from Israel must wait– until more research and planning can be completed.

    I also attended the second national divestment conference at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, in October 2002.

    Ten more years have gone by.
    Israel massacred Lebanon in 2006.
    Israel massacred Gaza in 2008-2009.

    Now it’s October 2012.

    When exactly will there be a wave of campus campaigns to boycott all products from Israel?

    Where is there even one campus campaign to boycott Israel?

    • Newclench
      October 10, 2012, 6:39 pm

      Why are they calling last year’s conference the first “National SJP Conference”? I think I attended a national SJP conference at OSU in 2003. But I guess I didn’t if last year’s was the first one.

  2. Annie Robbins
    October 10, 2012, 12:42 pm

    hey, great to see danya from SJP in albuquerque in the video. she’s an up and coming star, just an amazingly talented powerhouse and great speaker. sjp was raising funds to get their group to the conference while i was at sabeel and also by hosting a fantastic event w/josh from end the occupation at UNM.

    i hope everyone donates something. investing in this generation of activists is paramount and they are motivated.

    • Pamela Olson
      October 10, 2012, 1:53 pm

      Done. Palestine Online Store donated some excellent gifts for people who contribute — check it out and please support these student leaders!

  3. Pamela Olson
    October 10, 2012, 1:48 pm

    So much respect and excitement — students today are making so many great strides, giving hope to all of us that things really can get better!

  4. coffee
    October 10, 2012, 3:03 pm

    The Wayne State University student council also passed a divestment resolution passed in April 2003. That followed a lot of protesting and confronting Zionists. Hardly any conferences were attended by WSU’s activists. Conferences are valuable, but not without demonstrations.

  5. DICKERSON3870
    October 10, 2012, 5:46 pm

    RE: “Please help students across the country attend this conference by making a donation at .” ~ Rahim Kurwa

    MY COMMENT: I made a modest contribution via PayPal.

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