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Third national ‘Students for Justice in Palestine’ conference aims to build on victories of the past year

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Northeastern, Brooklyn College, Florida Atlantic, Oberlin, Stanford, University of California – Irvine, Berkeley, Davis, Santa Cruz, Santa Barbara, Riverside, Irvine, and San Diego  – Over the past year universities have been at the center of Palestine solidarity organising. Gathering in October for the SJP-National conference will enable students to revitalise their energy, share experiences and prepare for the year long struggle ahead.

Over the past year, we have seen SJPs develop thoughtful campaigns that drew meaningful links to the struggles in their communities. We have seen SJPs turn knowledge and awareness into creative action, bringing to the forefront the ongoing injustices that Palestinians face, from home demolitions to the forced exile of millions, the Apartheid Wall to the routine imprisonment of Palestinians. With over 130 chapters across the US, SJPs are doing what mainstream media refuses to, bringing a narrative that captures the real consequences of Israeli policies to tens of thousands.

In direct reaction to the growing success of SJPs, the opposition has mounted well funded attacks to undermine and discredit our work. Compounded by the privatisation of education across the US which limits access to education and curtails academic freedom for students and professors, we witnessed threats to defund Brooklyn College for daring to host pro-boycott speakers.

Students at Florida Atlantic University were forced to sign civility statements & attend Anti-Defamation League (ADL) designed re-education classes.  In California, lawsuits and criminal charges have been brought against a slew of activists, and extraordinary efforts have been made to regulate and limit the bounds of discourse on campus and embolden the fight against BDS campaigns.

Despite these conditions, universities across the state ran eight divestment campaigns, winning majority votes in five of them and permanent victories in three universities. The pushback against student activism continues. The timely appointment of Janet Napolitano (who oversaw new records in deportations at the Department of Homeland Security) as the head of the UC regents in California is the foreshadow to the struggle ahead.

In October, hundreds of students from around the nation will meet for the 3rd NSJP conference at Stanford University. Titled ‘From Margin to Center: ‘Connecting Struggles, Forging a National Movement,’ this year’s conference will create the space for students to share organising skills, learn about the issues and history of Palestinian communities, draw connections to other indigenous and anti-racist struggles, and facilitate critical discussions on solidarity and accountability.

As a space that is organised by students and for students, to share experiences and learn, the NSJP conference serves to empower a new generation of activists devoted to seeking justice for Palestine. By increasing communication and coordination amongst SJPs, the NSJP conference is a momentous opportunity to come together, to facilitate the growth of the SJP network. With the help of hundreds of supporters, almost $20,000 in donations has gone towards subsidising the travel of over 150 students in the past two years, a priority for organisers to ensure students are able to attend despite financial limitations. This year, we want to bring 100 students to California and are asking for donations to help us achieve this goal.

 Student organising is incredibly important to the larger Palestine solidarity movement in the US. Invest in the future of this movement and donate.

Sasha Gelzin
About Sasha Gelzin

Sasha Gelzin is a student organiser and member of the Students for Justice in Palestine - National steering committee.

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7 Responses

  1. Blaine Coleman
    Blaine Coleman
    September 9, 2013, 4:27 pm

    I went to at least the first three national divestment conferences, starting in 2002 at Berkeley, then at Michigan, then at Ohio State, and another one in Washington, DC.

    I felt a certain excitement about the idea of ‘Connecting Struggles, Forging a National Movement’, because I thought all these students would run out and demand resolutions for divestment and boycott against Israel.

    No, I was told — no divestment resolutions until we “strategize”, and “research”, and “build bridges”. That was in 2002. So 11 years of “strategizing” have gone by. The class of 2002 has children who will be shaving in a few years.

    When does the “strategizing” end?

    Many national divestment conferences, and “BDS” conferences, have come and gone. They are exciting places to be, because they promise public action on campus, to demand boycotts and divestment against Israel.

    The students are thrilled to meet and tweet — then they evaporate. Where is the wave of divestment resolutions?

    Is there finally going to be a wave of divestment resolutions this September? Or will everyone wait silently for the next conference, and the next?

  2. annie
    September 9, 2013, 7:12 pm

    i really can not think of a more worthwhile way to invest in the movement for freedom in palestine than thru investing in SJP on our nation’s campuses. the difference SJP’s have made in our national dialogue, thru the activism, education, persistence and determination of our youth over the last decade is shocking/stunning/overwhelming.

    from the donation page:

    National SJP Conference organizers have been offered a challenge to raise $2000 between now and September 15th. If we reach this goal, we’ll get another $1000 to help finance student travel to the conference…… Our goal is to raise $25,000 and provide travel subsidies to over 100 students. That’s why we are asking for your support.

    i hope you have a fantastic conference and of course i will donate today.

  3. Pamela Olson
    Pamela Olson
    September 10, 2013, 12:55 am

    Wow, 130 SJPs — that is such a long way from where we were ten years ago. Amazing.

    The number 130 gave me an idea. It’s about the same number as the number of Israeli settlements in the West Bank. I wonder if each SJP could “adopt” a settlement to keep tabs on how it’s expanding, whose land it was built on, whom the settlers are attacking and how often, and whether the Wall in this area is isolating land from Palestinian villages for use by the settlement. And what they’re producing, what they’re trying to export, how many swimming pools they have, where their residents are working (which will often be inside Israel, making it plain how integrated the settlements are into Israel). You could throw in water use and Israeli-only roads as well, and you could figure out who’s funding it and what “legal” shenanigans allowed it to be built. There are so many things to uncover!

    Just a thought. It’d be good to have each group shining a light on one criminal enterprise. Ariel or Mitzpe Jericho might not feel so comfortable if they know Northeastern or Wayne State or UC Irvine is keeping a very close eye on them…

    • just
      September 10, 2013, 6:59 am

      What a great idea, Pam! (Adopt a settlement sounds “warm and fuzzy”, too! Genius, really.)

      Thank you SJP– your passion, cause, action, and work are a source of hope and change. You are showing the US how to be a better nation by taking the blinders off, and exposing the hard truth.

    • amigo
      September 10, 2013, 1:57 pm

      Great idea and how about the Twin Cities concept.

      San Jose (State)twinned Maale Adumin.

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