‘Has AIPAC got you on the take?’ Web video series calls out college officials for complicity, racism against divestment

Activism
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Activists for the Open Hillel movement and the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement have put together a sparkling and humorous web series called Ac’tiv•ist that traces the fortunes of young activists on campus seeking to have that college divest from Israel. The finale just aired; the whole show is available here. Here’s their Facebook page, and what follows is a press release about the show. 

In the same week that Governor Cuomo signed his BDS “blacklist” policy and the American Association of Anthropologists narrowly failed to pass a divestment resolution, young Jewish and Palestinian activists released the season finale of their darkly-comedic divestment web series. The most recent episode takes aim at college administrators for backing special interests over students and highlights the urgency of organizing for divestment.  

Ac’tiv•ist follows the exhausting, inspiring, and absurd nature of students campaigning to have their college divest from Israel. It has released six ten-minute episodes available for free online at http://www.activistshow.com/.

The finale begins with the main character, student organizer Sam Rushbad, challenging her mother, the dean, about the college’s relationship with fraternities. “Shouldn’t you be confronting frats on misogyny and sexual assault, not giving them insurance tips?” Sam asks. The debate quickly turns to Sam’s work on divestment and ends with the dean sinisterly claiming that “those Palestinian kids are trouble.”

According to creator and executive producer Joshua Wolfsun, it was important to show the structural nature of administrative hostility to student organizing. “We started the first episode with the dean having a folder from AIPAC in her purse,” said Wolfsun. “One of the realities of campus organizing is that administrators get pressured by Pro-Israel lobbyists to silence students. We really wanted to illustrate the effects of that power dynamic in this final episode.”

The show’s writers and producers include student leaders from the successful UCLA divestment campaign and the Open Hillel movement. While the show is a work of fiction that takes a humorously heightened approach to the experiences of organizing on campus, its core is rooted in the real experiences of its creators.

“I started writing when Hillel International was threatening to sue my college’s Jewish community,” said Wolfsun. “I was comparing what I was reading about us with the reality of our sleepless nights. It’s easy for students doing this work to be demonized, which is exactly why it’s important to tell these stories.”

Executive Producer Alaa Abuadas, a recent graduate of UCLA who was an organizer behind her school’s divestment campaign, agrees. “This show is about humorously and honestly depicting experiences like the ones we had when we were doing organizing on campus.”

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3 Responses

  1. Pixel
    June 16, 2016, 1:49 pm

    This is GREAT! Keep the videos rolling! Cudos to ALL involved!!!

  2. Annie Robbins
    June 17, 2016, 2:26 am

    i love the series — it’s funny. nothing i expected, so banal clueless college life but at the same time it exposes a lot. the scene where the palestinian students come in to introduce themselves really hit the nail on the head. i look forward to watching more which is why i will donate. i recommend visiting their youtube page and watching the bloopers and other short videos about the making of the series. thus far i notice the absence of palestinian women and hope that changes in following episodes. but the lead character — she’s making an effort and her (many) blunders are funny, and i’m rooting for her side-kick. it’s good direction and instinct. kudos for making a comedy about activism for palestine.

  3. Emmacandance
    June 17, 2016, 1:55 pm

    I thoroughly enjoyed this series, right down to the last unexpectedly sobering scene. Although it could have easily devolved into stereotyping college activists as either purely noble and visionary or silly and misguided, taking themselves too seriously, it just never did. And episode 4 provided a real lesson on how all of us should act when confronted with our privilege. I am not surprised that some of the people behind this include Palestinian and Jewish organizers (Open Hillel and BDS). That voice comes across as honest and true, while also enjoyably self-deprecating and self-aware. I wonder if there will be a season 2, and if so, where it will take these characters. I’m hooked.

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