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‘Apartheid on the Hill’: Students transform Tufts campus to highlight Israeli occupation

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(Photo: Tufts SJP)

(Photo: Tufts SJP)

As the central action during Tufts SJP’s Israeli Apartheid Week 2014, the campus awoke to a mock “Uphill” settlement constructed on the patio of the campus center situated “Downhill” between dorms and classrooms. Uphill versus Downhill: this meaningless geographic distinction and rivalry on Tufts University’s campus was transformed into a metaphor for the violent asymmetry of occupation and colonization in Israel/Palestine.

Traditionally ‘uphill’ has been the seat of the administration’s power, as well as home to the majority of the academic buildings on campus. However most students actually live downhill, as the vast majority of dormitories and the campus center are located in the downhill portion of campus.  We erected a border wall, covered with graffiti slogans—“This Wall Will Fall!”—and evicted  downhill residents from the lower patio, blind-folding and detaining them on the steps. The previous night, mock demolition notices were slipped under each downhill dorm door informing students that their dorm was scheduled for demolition. Unlike downhill residents, uphill residents awoke to flyers advertising a free trip to Uphill for those eligible (“Uphill with Uphill residents”) that promised rides on Jumbo the elephant (the popular Tufts mascot) and a connection to this “Uphill homeland”.

Demolition notice (click to enlarge)

Demolition notice (click to enlarge)

Though an imperfect metaphor, this mock settlement let us introduce the concept of occupation into the often-insulated Tufts bubble. We wanted to make clear the difference between a symmetrical conflict and an occupation in order to bring home the unequal power dynamics and to expose our community’s role in reproducing and normalizing Israel’s apartheid system. Israeli Apartheid Week, is in part, about reclaiming words, such as “apartheid” and “settler colonialism”, that alone can do justice in approximating the violence perpetrated against the Palestinian people. By reframing these dynamics in the familiar university environment, we disrupt the comfort of the Tufts community and the notion of  “business as usual”. Our demonstration also unveils the privileges of safety and security that students of an elite university take for granted as well as the privilege many exercise unknowingly when they choose not to take a side. As South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu warned, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”

(Image: Tufts SJP)

(Image: Tufts SJP)

Taking a side and making educated decisions is a process. The mock Birthright flyers were not intended to shame those eligible for the trip, but to remind students that this “free trip” is most definitely not free. Interrogating the sources and intentions of the Birthright program is vital for anyone going, and central to our direct action was the demand that Tufts students who choose to accept the trip must go actively questioning and analyzing everything.  To this end,  we distributed in the course of the action Tufts SJP’s Birthright Primer. This primer, written in 2012, deconstructs “what you will hear on Birthright” and gives testimonies from Tufts students who returned from Birthright as well as providing educational resources for trip extensions to the West Bank and other opportunities.

(Photo: Tufts SJP)

(Photo: Tufts SJP)

Israeli Apartheid Week is also about reminding our entire school community of our complicity in Israel’s apartheid regime. Like many universities, Tufts invests thousands of dollars of its endowment in corporations profiting from the Israeli occupation.

(Photo: Tufts SJP)

(Photo: Tufts SJP)

For instance, while Tufts refuses to make public its investment portfolio, we know that as of 2010, our university had direct holdings in Hewlett-Packard, an IT giant that “provides ongoing support and maintenance to a biometric ID system installed in Israeli checkpoints in the occupied West Bank, which deprive Palestinians of freedom of movement in their own land and allow the Israeli military occupation to grant or deny special privileges to the civilians under its control”. Like our predecessors in the South African anti-apartheid movement of the 1980s, Tufts SJP is calling for the administration to end its normalizing support for apartheid globally and divest from HP and other companies sustaining Israel’s system of racialized oppression.

Tufts is hardly alone. All across the U.S., Students for Justice in Palestine groups and other solidarity organizations are pressuring their institutions to honor the 2005 Palestinian civil society call for boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS). This past weekend was the first East Coast Regional Students for Justice in Palestine Conference. In follow-up to the national conference in October 2013, SJP East organized a conference to promote regional cooperation, creativity, and solidarity. Students for Justice in Palestine is committed to building broad-based movements on college campuses seeking to decolonize our educational institutions by working to dismantle apartheid and settler-colonialism both in Israel/Palestine and at home.

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55 Responses

  1. JusticeForPalestine
    March 6, 2014, 6:44 pm

    Are there ways that Mondoweiss readers can support these students’ efforts, other than by profusely thanking them and telling them they’re awesome?

    Hey awesome Tufts students:
    Is there a way that members of the general public can contribute financially to your cause?

    • Susie Kneedler
      Susie Kneedler
      March 7, 2014, 9:40 am

      NOW, LIVE: C-SPAN3 is showing and streaming LIVE the “National Summit to Reassess the U.S.-Israel ‘Special Relationship'”:, Live: The “National Summit to Reassess the U.S.-Israel ‘Special Relationship'”

      9:00 AM-5:00 PM, TODAY, Friday, March 7, 2014
      at the National Press Club:
      “A diverse panel of experts examines the relationship between the U.S. and Israel, and the impact of lobbying groups on U.S. policy in the Middle East.”

      Thanks very much, C-SPAN and National Press Club.

      • March 7, 2014, 12:10 pm

        just heard ernie gallo, a USS liberty survivor, get a partial standing ovation from the audience. but i think he did a poor job presenting the liberty case. they either need another speaker or a public speaking coach for him.
        he presentation, factual accurate, was dry and wholly undramatic. it was like watching a little grammar school kid read a book report.

        unless you are well versed in the abominable way in which the jewish israel military;
        first very closely overflew the ship over the course of a few hours over ten times clearly seeing a huge american flag blowing almost strait in the wind, with two smaller ones,
        then began to straife the litterally defenseless intelligence gathering ship with a barrage of rapid gunfire
        then torpedo the ship multiple times
        and then most inhumanely shoot at the seamen while they floated helplessly in the shark-infested waters trying to kill every last one of them,
        one might have been hard pressed to have kept as rapt attention as this monumental incident commands!

      • Citizen
        March 7, 2014, 12:47 pm

        @ SusieK
        Yes, thanks for reminding us! I just tweeted it.
        Now, Cynthia McKinney is talking about what it’s like to be a negative target of AIPAC…

        Money, message, media–ways to direct things & AIPAC has the $, anti-AIPAC doesn’t, but there are ways to offset this….U need critical discernment, the awareness of who is who in the zoo–read Israeli papers, only the issue of US-Israel relationship fails on this in US re dignity of human beings…need to crack the 99% club that’s against what we believe, against the war mongers and oppressors.

      • Citizen
        March 7, 2014, 1:01 pm

        More from Cynthia, “We need to do more.” Now up as speaker: On high cost of Israel to Americans: Delinda Hanley, Exec Editor of Washington Report: What it’s costing Americans already living in poverty. Foreign aid is 1% of total budget, so why not cut it? She challenges the aid to Israel, a state with about the same amount of people who live in Hong Kong, accounts for most of our foreign aid to one country. This going to land-grabber Israel. Israel always says it’s in grave danger to extinction.

      • Citizen
        March 7, 2014, 1:02 pm

        Phil Weiss, and J Ramando, Stephen Walt up to the podium now as to how “special relationship” came about, and what’s it’s been doing”. This will go on for two more hours. .

      • Citizen
        March 7, 2014, 1:07 pm

        Walt speaking at the summit now:

      • Citizen
        March 7, 2014, 1:25 pm

        Walt: How would his book Israel Lobby be different today? It would be a lot longer. Events since his book have almost all vindicated what he and Mearsheimer wrote.
        Next speaker: Geoffrey Wawro, Author, Quicksand: American’s Pursuit of Poser in ME. He’s starting with Balfour Declaration, going on historically, now Brandeis, and how he gained influence by supporting a Jewish state. Now about FDR, worried about Palestine because Saudi King was so worried re the Jewish DPs.

      • Citizen
        March 7, 2014, 1:35 pm

        Now he’s talking about how Truman created the Palestinian refugees before establishment of state of Israel. “There’s 5M jewish voters in USA, & very few Arabs.” Now, in 1955 how Democratic politicians piled on favoring Israel for short-term political advantage, including Humphrey. They guaranteed America would guarantee Israel with no cost to Israel… How JFK aided Israel for domestic reasons. Support of Israel continued in 60’s, a multi-million dollar business. LBJ viewed Israel as a place to get Jewish American votes and cash. From LBJ on, every POTUS supported the settlements de facto.

      • Citizen
        March 7, 2014, 1:43 pm

        More Wawro: Nixon realized he had made Israelis more difficult to deal with than ever before by helping them. Kissinger assured Nixon he’d be able to manage the Israelis, which was false advice; Just keep giving them more stuff and hope they will listen to us. Tail wags dog continued till today. Kerry’s energy won’t be able to do a final peace solution. Don’t hold your breath.

      • Citizen
        March 7, 2014, 1:46 pm

        Now, after Wawro, speaks John Quigley, Ohio State U law professor, author of Case For Palestine. He’s talking key legal issues. Status of Jerusalem. Status not determined as a technical matter by US executive branch. It’s within power of POTUS as per fed appeals court in DC. UN SC said 67 attack was anticipatory defense, as Abba Eben said, but CIA was telling Johnson this was not true, Egypt was not preparing to attack. Issue was would Johnson be Ike or himself. He chose the latter. Decided to be quiet, and we’re living with that decision. Israeli view today is not true.

      • Citizen
        March 7, 2014, 1:55 pm

        More Quigley
        158 states have accepted Palestine is now a state, which US resists. in Nov 2012, Susan Rice voted against that resolution. International community accepted Palestine as a state when it accepted Iraq and Syria as such in early 20th Century.

      • Citizen
        March 7, 2014, 1:59 pm

        Quigley on settlements: By referring to “new settlements” as illegal, does that imply old ones are legal? Ambiguous. Strong opinion of world community is all are illegal. ICC defines inter alia as a war crime, the transfer of settlers into occupied land; this is a slam dunk prosector’s win if pursued. Is Palestine a state in first place? After 3 years of struggling with this issue the ICC said it was not its jurisdiction to decide this.

      • Citizen
        March 7, 2014, 2:12 pm

        Ending: Good case for repatriation of all Palestinian refugees to Israel but US chooses to not pursue it. Next speaker: Alsion Weir:

        She was always aware of the Holocaust, but not the Palestinian situation. She discovered Israel’s pattern of keeping its negative activities against them just under the West’s news radar. Shows graph of how feel Jews have been killed by rockets compared to how many Pals have been killed by Jews. She quit her job as small town news girl and traveled to Israel/Palestine. Read many books on US connection; discovered the Israel lobby’s heavy influence, 100 years of political zionism which many Americans to this day don’t know exists. Now going into Brandeis’s secret Zionist activities, Frankfurter, conduits between US & Brit Zionists. Significant reason US entered WW1…examples from then to these days of US celebrities & influential people erased from US history by the Zionists.

      • Susie Kneedler
        Susie Kneedler
        March 7, 2014, 8:00 pm

        Wow, Citizen: great, fast work: you’re a wonder. Btw, I still remember how kind you were when I first wrote here at M/W: Thanks!

      • Kathleen
        March 7, 2014, 3:58 pm

        Thanks so much Susie. Great that this is on Cspan. Will be a great time for folks to call into Washington Journal and bring up this conference and what was said. Keep encouraging folks to go watch and listen

      • Kathleen
        March 7, 2014, 4:15 pm

        Just saw Phil Weiss up in front during break. Sure wish former head of the CIA’s Bin Laden unit Micheal Scheuer could have made it.

      • Kathleen
        March 7, 2014, 4:24 pm

        Have folks watched the documentary “No End In Sight” Paul Pillar really tells it

    • Susie Kneedler
      Susie Kneedler
      March 8, 2014, 8:49 am

      And, Tufts students, how inventively you think! Thanks for inspiring us all with your brilliant analysis + creative actions.

  2. Felice Gelman
    Felice Gelman
    March 6, 2014, 7:52 pm

    Dear awesome Tufts students: As an alumna of graduate school at Tufts, I’m so proud of you all. I don’t remember that our protests against the Vietnam war there were so imaginative and informative. Bravo!

    • just
      March 7, 2014, 6:09 am

      You are a credit to Tufts as well, Felice. Your work & voice is much appreciated.

  3. March 6, 2014, 7:54 pm

    nice job kids!
    make your forefathers and mothers who did the same thing on college campuses all over the country protesting the vietnam war proud. but you have a long long way to go before you come anywhere close to resembling the awesome power we finally had!
    but don’t ever give up, its our country thats at stake here. i hope your movement can spread to every nook and cranny across the country and you do become as forceful as we were, and more.
    the american people, when united behind a common cause, can work wonders.

  4. annie
    March 6, 2014, 8:38 pm

    YEAHHH!!! what a great action. ;) i am so proud of TuftsSJP and all the awesome SJP and SAIA student activists across the country.

  5. just
    March 7, 2014, 6:06 am

    Awesome activism! Many thanks to these great students who also serve as educators!

  6. Citizen
    March 7, 2014, 12:50 pm

    Go Tufts students!

  7. Citizen
    March 7, 2014, 2:21 pm

    At Summit on reassessing US-I relationship
    Alison Weir pointed out that Dorthy Thomposn, inter alia, has been erased from American memory because after she was expelled by Hitler from Germany, she went to Palestine and discovered what was happening there and commenced to rail against what the Zionists were doing–Wikipedia does not mention this:

    Dorothy Thompson in 1920
    Dorothy Thompson (9 July 1893 – 30 January 1961) was an American journalist and radio broadcaster, who in 1939 was recognized by Time magazine as the second most influential woman in America next to Eleanor Roosevelt.[1] She is notable as the first American journalist to be expelled from Nazi Germany in 1934 and as one of the few women news commentators on radio during the 1930s.[2] She is regarded fondly by some as the “First Lady of American Journalism.”[3]

  8. Citizen
    March 7, 2014, 2:24 pm

    Quigley says although the UN Gen Assembly decided the state of Israel, it did not decide its borders.

  9. Citizen
    March 7, 2014, 2:27 pm

    Wawro/Walt: Israel was never really in danger in 73 war; it was all theatre. Egypt had new soviet equipment, missiles, tanks but had no authority or idea how to use them effectively. Disputed whether or not Israel was ready to use nukes.

  10. Citizen
    March 7, 2014, 2:33 pm

    Jeff Blankfort up as next speaker at Summit:

    Are there Israeli gate keepers and damage control experts at work on the Left? Yes.
    Within the left generally and organized opposition to Israel, there are limits, mostly advanced by admitted zionist, Chomsky. His parameters of the limits of criticism has been largely accepted by the Left, e.g., Amy Goodman is gatekeeper for AIPAC. A parameter: Israel is strategic asset for US–this is false. Israel has yet to bleed a drop of blood for US. Chomsky placed ultimate crimes on US for giving arms to Israel in the Fateful Triangle.

    • Citizen
      March 7, 2014, 2:36 pm

      Most don’t want to acknowledge the Israeli crime of the Nakba. Chomsky was hurt by W & M Israel Lobby which attributed much of the blame for the Iraq War on Israel Lobby. Amy Goodman is into damage control–she never invited W or M, but only Chomsky onto her show.

      • Citizen
        March 7, 2014, 2:41 pm

        More Blankfort: Amy Goodman never reports on AIPAC-influenced events. Votes on legislation, etc. PNAC we learned about from a Scottish newspaper. Asks show of hands for various zionist pacs & think tanks with sneaky names–few raise their hands. Role of gate-keepers is to keep it that way. Chomsky doesn’t mention JFK as JFK did not support Israeli conduct. Didn’t mention G Ford’s objections to Israel either. Ditto re Bush Sr.

  11. Kris
    March 7, 2014, 2:44 pm

    Outstanding, creative activism which will be doubly effective in educating the Tufts community and others because it is also so very entertaining!

    Sincere thanks to Tufts University Students for Justice in Palestine.

  12. Citizen
    March 7, 2014, 2:49 pm

    Next speaker at Summit:

    Allan Brownfeld, syndicated columnist:
    APAIC has distorted our media; it’s important to know Zionism is historically not welcome in USA. Idea Zionism as religion of Judaism? Only since the Shoah. Prior thereto, tradition in Jewish USA was that USA was Zion; considered Judaism only a religion, not a nation. Jews did not worship a state or soil as Jewish. Judaism was not considered a nationality in the sense of modern nationalism, but it was Torah. What happened? Complete corruption of Jewish religion. Programs with agenda to get Jewish Americans to immigrate to Israel, to go fight in IDF. Zionism is subversive enterprise. It flies a foreign flag in its houses of worship in USA.

    • Citizen
      March 7, 2014, 2:56 pm

      More: strict separation of church n state only honored where jews are not the ones in power? Recognize Turkey’s Armenian genocide, or not, depending on who’s Israel ally? Thou shalt not kill only refers to not killing jews? US funds these rabbi thoughts? Why don’t US jews criticize these rabbis? When Napoleon was bringing freedom to Russia via invasion, the rabbis supported the Czar because if he fell, so did their authority. Zionism is IMO in retreat, time will tell…

  13. Citizen
    March 7, 2014, 3:10 pm

    Justin Ramondo

    My last post vanished, so:

    Now he’s discussing the Christian Zionists. End times. Israel Lobby special effectiveness is Hagee’s. Hope lies in foreign policy dose of realism in response to US war weariness–the Libertarians. Cost of maintaining US -I special relationship is severe; hope this Summit turns it around.

  14. Citizen
    March 7, 2014, 3:20 pm

    Next speaker at Summit: Scott McConnel, American Conservative Founder:

    National Review’s Buckley’s fatal mistake of letting neocons take over the relevant subject matter. Goes into Trial of Eichmann as per NR–nothing accomplished but a hatred of Germans, But 25 yrs later, Midge Decter, Joe Soban, Buckley impressed by their writing. Sorban wanted to know why Maimonides thought it was not ok to kill goys. Soban would read all he wrote to Buckley (over phone) related to Israel to be published in NR. Pat Buchannan, like Sorban, commenced to reevaluate his pro-vision of Israel. Issue of Iraq War. Names of dead soldiers all goyish. Pat’s facts were nuanced and true but his rhetoric was inflammatory.

    • Citizen
      March 7, 2014, 3:24 pm

      More: Scranton was never heard from again (after being potential POTUS) when he came back with his observations (from Israel?)–Buckley’s verdict: Pat B was anti-semitic, although nobody read Buckley’s qualifiers. New Rules for conservatives: be pro-Israel, from then to now.

  15. Citizen
    March 7, 2014, 3:30 pm

    Next speaker for Summit: PHIL WEISS

    Humble, ‘I’m less scholarly. I was stunned by W & M Israel Lobby! Such truth in print, really? Scales will fall from American eyes. I didn’t realize how much censorship was in USA. A week ago, Wolf Blitzer had Michael Ohren on–he’s a true zionist zealot presented as a wise pundit. Ohren says Palestinians should not go outside to protest, and Wolf doesn’t question this. Israel is ” a miracle.” Refers to powerful American Jewish journalists (named) playing a key role in US media.

    • Citizen
      March 7, 2014, 3:38 pm

      More from Phil:

      NYT sends over to Israel as journalists bigoted Jews not interrogated first. Any positive developments re the Establishment, not the gross roots? Three: Tom Friedman said in print congress is bought and paid for by Israel Lobby last year. Judis book on Truman: a fair review. Internet has changed everything. He meets Craig (of Craig’s List). Dawn: You can get something beyond money out of internet.
      I will leave out the Jewish tribal piece as time is short. Deference to Jewish community with goy Establishment. Forrestal’s (sic) death, USS Liberty, Judis book–we will see high noon for Israel Lobby…

      • Kathleen
        March 7, 2014, 4:42 pm

        I do think those of us who applied pressure on NPR helped get rid of Linda Grandstein….she never tried to hide her allegiance to Israel in her reporting. No pretending

      • Kathleen
        March 7, 2014, 5:00 pm

        This is damn amazing that this conference is being aired live nationwide on Cspan. We have come a long way…a long way

      • just
        March 7, 2014, 6:35 pm

        I believe that you are right, Kathleen. I was glued to CSPAN in the dastardly run-up to both horrible wars. I was deeply involved and concerned. After we successfully elected a Democrat, I breathed a bit easier……..then I found myself gasping again. I had expected a big change in our foreign policy, and definitely with regard to the ME and our coddling of the Apartheid statelet.

        I left Congress behind, and also CSPAN and Washington Journal……nothing really grabbed me anymore. I really thought then, and think now, that our sick, hypocritical relationship with zionist Israel is a huge liability and puts us at risk in so many ways. We’ve lost so much credibility all over the world.

        Now, CSPAN finally has done something good again. Perhaps the noise is getting to loud to ignore. I hope that it is the beginning of much more. In the meantime, I must again give my sincere thanks to all of the wonderful folks at Mondoweiss for their fierce allegiance to the truth.

      • Kathleen
        March 7, 2014, 8:56 pm

        Just I monitor Washington Journal callers in regard to this issue, Iran, Iraq for several decades. The doors have opened wide callers question the U.S. relationship with Israel, the invasion of Iraq, our foreign policy with Iran. Callers are far more informed because of the internet and access. Callers have become so well informed that Camera (a right wing zionist organization monitors callers and of course claims that are fact based are anti semitic etc. There are a few whack jobs that call in but the host usually cut them off which is appropriate.

        Cspan is one of the only outlets on cable for real honesty even though they do not fully step up to the plate. But the best thing we have on cable news…by far

      • Susie Kneedler
        Susie Kneedler
        March 7, 2014, 8:04 pm

        And thanks, Kathleen, for reminding us about what people of conscience need to do.

      • Kathleen
        March 7, 2014, 8:57 pm

        Takes a village to shed light on this issue as you well know and do.

  16. Citizen
    March 7, 2014, 3:45 pm

    Q & A at Summit:

    Big wide historical reflecting on negative Zionism in Hitler Era prior to [email protected]:
    Panel Responses:
    Teaching Holocaust in US schools. More nuanced re Blacks in USA than with Jews.

    Re Jewish Virtual Library: is it objective? No

    • American
      March 7, 2014, 9:02 pm

      Citizen says:

      March 7, 2014 at 3:45 pm
      Q & A at Summit:

      ”Big wide historical reflecting on negative Zionism in Hitler Era prior to WW”

      Examples:….the Germany Zionist–Anti Zionist in the 1920’s was replayed in the US in 1948.

      Anti-zionist Body in Germany Urges Members to Refrain from Palestine Work March 9, 1926

      German Zionists Look for New Era with Germany’s Admission into League Help for Palestine Project
      September 20, 1926

  17. Citizen
    March 7, 2014, 3:47 pm

    Next subject on Summit: Is Israel really a US ally?

  18. Citizen
    March 7, 2014, 3:53 pm

    Meanwhile, they are replaying Walt from the Summit: “Level of devotion to Israel has never been displayed by US politicians in all of US history to favor any other foreign country.”

  19. Citizen
    March 7, 2014, 4:07 pm

    Back at Summit

    Just talking about US deference to Israel re the settlements, De Blasio, Pelosio, exec. hard to get Ameican politicians to comment on israel.

  20. Citizen
    March 7, 2014, 4:22 pm

    National summit on Israel-US connection resumes:
    Shirer can’t participate. So we get the more feeble Paul Pollar, former CIA analyst:
    Re back scratching: I’m sorry, I can’t keep being stenographer here for the Summit. But Pollar does spell out the Israeli military power and how it would be easy to end any force against it, He shows what that costs Americans and Pillar admits the US masses are hurting financially because of Israelo

  21. Kathleen
    March 7, 2014, 4:45 pm

    Many in the audience do not like what Pillar and McGovern are saying.

  22. lysias
    March 7, 2014, 5:10 pm

    I just read in Craig Steven Wilder’s Ebony and Ivy: Race, Slavery, and the Troubled History of America’s Universities that the Tufts campus was earlier occupied by Ten Hills Farm, the 600-acre plantation of the Royall family that had many slaves before slaves in Massachusetts were emancipated during the American Revolution.

  23. just
    March 7, 2014, 5:58 pm

    I came home just in time to hear closing statements @ the Summit……… ;(

    But, look!

    “A motion supporting a blanket boycott of Israel was passed by students of the National University of Ireland on Thursday .”

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