Inspired by the Rutgers-New Brunswick chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine, members of Students Allied for Freedom and Equality (SAFE) dispersed the notices in the early morning in order to have students momentarily experience the feeling of receiving an eviction notice upon waking up — a feeling that thousands of indigenous Palestinians have had to face under Israeli occupation.
Although it is impossible to recreate the emotions Palestinians experience from forcible internal displacement and exile, the purpose of this action was to raise much-needed awareness regarding the ongoing forcible expulsion of indigenous Palestinians from their land to clear the way for the construction of illegal Jewish-only settlements in the occupied territories.
The mock eviction action was simultaneously coupled with a Twitter campaign using the hashtag#UMMockEviction, which was soon trending worldwide. Students tweeted their reactions:
University Housing issued an apology to dormitory residents who felt targeted or intimidated by the action and encouraged them to find supportive spaces.
However, SAFE organizers point out that University Housing fails to create an open space for students who are connected to the issue or who have had family members internally displaced in Palestine or ethnically cleansed from their land.
On Tuesday evening, Hillel, the foundation for Jewish campus life, held meetings to address the concerns of students who felt targeted or triggered by the mock eviction notices. Some students reported the evictions as a “bias incident”, moving attention away from violent displacements to privileged voices.
Palestinians and allies responded to such tweets about the lack of accountability by University Housing and student remarks claiming the action to be offensive:
SAFE members also met racist and violent reactions from students on campus and on social media:
Fliers calling for an end to Israel’s Prawer Plan with images of the honorable late Nelson Mandela were torn down in a University building following the action. The Prawer Plan is a discriminatory development plan that, if implemented, will displace up to 70,000 Arab Bedouins in the Naqab (Negev) desert in southern Israel.
Although SAFE organizers faced hateful backlash from pro-Israel students on campus, SAFE’s action found overwhelming support from allies, especially among students of color and radical groups on campus.
Groups such as INCITE, Anonymous, Black Student Union, Coalition for Queer People of Color, Border Collective, and the Student Union of Michigan all stood in solidarity with SAFE and its goal of holding the University accountable for its role in the continuing oppression of Palestinians.
SAFE demands that the University of Michigan divest from corporations that support the Israeli occupation and its subsequent displacement of Palestinians, like Northrop Grumman, Caterpillar, Inc., Hewlett-Packard, Heidelberg Cement, and Raytheon. In 2011, SAFE called for the University to divest from such companies, a call that went unanswered. However, SAFE continues to discuss Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions through initiatives like the mock eviction and other work around Palestinian solidarity.
-Students Allied for Freedom and Equality
This post was originally published at Sixteen Minutes to Palestine on December 11, 2013.