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PA astroturf effort to build campus momentum for statehood falls flat

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Visit the Students for Statehood (SFS) website powered by WordPress, to view pixilated flyers for some twelve calendared rallies in support of the PA statehood bid to the UN.  They look as though designed by students.  They use basic logos, and there is an embedded hip-hop video. 

The organization gained attention last August for their email solicitation to Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), self-identifying on their website as “college and university students.” While Palestinian organizations released statements against the UN Statehood bid, SFS took a different approach, advocating to Obama that “we want to get the United Nations to be our referee rather than, rather than the United States.” (sic).   

The initial email sent to SJPs across the U.S. was from Diana Shuman, editor at the Palestine Daily Telegraph.  Shuman identified SFS as “student run,” to Oday Shahin, an organizer with SJP at Arizona State University.  However, after phone calls to students who organize in SJPs at UC Berkeley, Columbia University, Yale and Hampshire College–all of whom had never heard of SFS–and a quick domain search for www.StudentsForStatehood.com, no student organizers could be found.   

The SFS website is registered to Rasha Uthman, the then Public Affairs Officer of the PLO Mission, and the PLO affiliation was not disclosed, “the PLO was almost running the entire organization,” Shahin notes, adding “she also refused to disclose the members of the board.” Shuman contends, that concealing this was a “fiasco,” and made SFS “a shamed entity” continuing, “especially for the one-state-ers such as myself.” According to Shahin, the PLO Mission was already unsuccessful with students based on a previous campus visit by a PLO representative. 

As for the September 4 rallies organized by former PLO Mission intern Yazan Mustafa, Shuman notes, “some of the rally’s had zero attendees,” and in Chicago, a campus group cancelled the rally and retracted support to SFS. 

Following the outing of the PLO Mission affiliation of SFS, Shuman has publically spoken out against the PA bid at a Maen Areikat event, and Uthman has resigned from her post, leaving the PLO without support–from the PLO. 

Allison Deger

Allison Deger is the Assistant Editor of Mondoweiss.net. Follow her on twitter at @allissoncd.

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14 Responses

  1. seafoid on September 27, 2011, 11:35 am

    What have US based students done recently for Palestinian rights on the ground in the Middle East ?

    • Tom Pessah on September 27, 2011, 4:37 pm

      volunteering in local NGOs in the West Bank, supporting BDS efforts, helping organize the Palestinian Youth Movement, hosting speakers to raise awareness, raising funds for initiatives like MECA’s Maia project (supplying clean water for children), participating in the Gaza Freedom March and this year’s flotillas…

      • seafoid on September 27, 2011, 6:05 pm

        That sounds good, Tom. But what’s the US student position on an alternative to the UN ?

        Have you seen the Danny Danon video?

        http://english.aljazeera.net/programmes/talktojazeera/2011/08/201185103022120129.html

        What’s the position on dealing with his Israel ?

      • Allison Deger on September 27, 2011, 7:41 pm

        Perhaps it is not necessarily US student’s role to determine the political aspirations of Palestinians, just as it is not necessarily the PLO mission’s role to determine the direction of US student organizing.

        Students have strong opinions on the statehood bid, but it is not central to their organizing: http://sjpnational.org/

        However, if you are looking for Palestinian youth opinions on statehood, I recommend the Palestinian Youth Movement’s statement:
        http://pal-youth.org/

      • irmep on September 28, 2011, 7:32 am

        If the PLO is astroturfing US campuses, they need to get their “student activists” registered as foreign agents of the PLO at the Justice Department.

        Following the Jewish Agency/stealth US Israel lobby group support model isn’t very smart, if that’s what they’re doing. Palestinians simply don’t have the demonstrated legal immunity Israel lobbyists enjoy. If they’re ordered to register and refuse, they likely would be prosecuted as harshly as Pakistani Kashmir activists.

        http://www.wrmea.com/component/content/article/372-2011-september-october/10699-selective-fara-enforcement-pakistans-alleged-agents-prosecuted-israels-ignored.html

        GFS

      • Chaos4700 on September 28, 2011, 8:41 am

        I was thinking the same thing, at least as far as how bad an idea it is to copy the Israeli lobby. Nobody else has the wealth and the influence to corrupt the Justice Department — anybody else who tried this would get the book thrown at them. So it’s just as well this strategy fell flat. It isn’t like the US Justice Department needs ANOTHER excuse to target Palestinians while giving others a free pass.

    • Hostage on September 28, 2011, 2:54 am

      What have US based students done recently for Palestinian rights on the ground in the Middle East ?

      They have become part of the intractable political problem. FYI there is no PA Statehood bid. The membership application was signed by the President of the State of Palestine and the Chairman of the PLO.

      The SFS website is registered to Rasha Uthman, the then Public Affairs Officer of the PLO Mission, and the PLO affiliation was not disclosed, “the PLO was almost running the entire organization,” Shahin notes, adding “she also refused to disclose the members of the board.” Shuman contends, that concealing this was a “fiasco,” and made SFS “a shamed entity” continuing, “especially for the one-state-ers such as myself.”

      I’m beginning to like Palestinian statehood a whole lot more and college-age BDS activists a whole lot less. I am a 194-“universal human rights”- stater myself. Are there 2000 pound iron bombs dropping on homes where you live? If you’d ever been in a war zone where they were, I can assure you that the question of who collects the taxes and picks up the garbage becomes a tertiary subject that is almost never discussed. There was another one-stater crying crocodile tears in a MW article about the status of the PLO being threatened by the statehood bid. But he too was busy delegitimizing “the sole representatives of the Palestinian people”. The PLO is comprised of grassroots organizations and factions with thousands of members. I suspect that they would accept an unelected Chinese Authority if it could stop the Israeli violence and end the impunity.

  2. Kathleen on September 27, 2011, 2:08 pm

    thanks

  3. Tom Pessah on September 27, 2011, 4:12 pm

    a lot of times so called “pro-Israel” students assume their pro-Palestine equivalents are their mirror image – as if people get their talking points from the PA or Arab governments, or act as their spokespersons. It’s good to demonstrate the independence of these grassroots organizations from the unelected PA.

  4. Andrew Pollack on September 27, 2011, 6:52 pm

    Ah, that explains a lot.
    Good investigate work, Allison. I helped organize the September 15th rally at the UN for Palestine rights (not for a bantustan “state”), and me and other organizers kept wondering where these SFSs and similar bogus projects were coming from.
    Now we know — and from a well-written article to boot!
    Andy Pollack

  5. smamit on September 27, 2011, 10:27 pm

    Thank you Allison!
    I think it is all pathetic and sad. A public and open appeal from the PA calling for grassroots support for their UN bid would have been much more successful for them. It shows that when it comes to understanding popular organizing, the PA is no better than other government bodies who think they can manipulate and control everything.

  6. Miriam Z. on September 28, 2011, 2:18 pm

    a real investigative piece. thanks for your work.

  7. tanjatrain on September 28, 2011, 3:25 pm

    Global organizations and movements in solidarity with Palestine are accountable to principals of justice and liberation for Palestinians. They are not accountable to government representatives. This is a grassroots movement that is not controlled by outside forces. That’s something that the Palestinian movement has over the Zionist agenda. Thanks for this piece.

    • Hostage on September 28, 2011, 4:58 pm

      Global organizations and movements in solidarity with Palestine are accountable to principals of justice and liberation for Palestinians. They are not accountable to government representatives. This is a grassroots movement

      Yes but they are not entitled to a tax exemption if they are conducting grassroots political activities to change government policies or lobbying government officials. In addition the FARA applies to foreign political parties and persons. If Omar Barghouti is sending your educational organization articles which call for everyone to take back the PLO via PLC elections or designed to influence US policy on UN recognition of an “imaginary State of Palestine”, then he should look into registering as a Foreign Principal under the applicable FARA guidelines.

      Like I suggested earlier, don’t become part of an intractable political problem in the first place. This is a urinating contest between competing PLO factions.

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