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Students explain why they protested Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat at San Francisco State University


The following statement was sent to us from General Union of Palestine Students (GUPS) at San Francisco State University:

“With the unwavering commitment to social justice that is central to the work of the university, SF State prepares its students to become productive, ethical, active citizens with a global perspective.”  -SFSU Mission Statement

On April 6th, 2016 Nir Barkat, the mayor of occupied Jerusalem, gave a speech sponsored by Hillel San Francisco State University (SFSU) chapter titled “How is a visionary from the high-tech sector leading a diverse and scrutinized city?” The event has led to scrutiny in the blogosphere and by the SFSU administration because of the protests that ensued.

Why we protested

The protest was led by a coalition of students representing a multiplicity of communities, ethnicities, and backgrounds who stand in solidarity for the freedom of Palestine. We protested Mayor Barkat because of his role as an Israeli official, who enforces violence and occupation against our communities on a daily basis.

Providing a platform for Barkat on our campus erases the violent and brutal realities faced by Palestinians. The Israeli technological sector underpins and makes possible the Israeli military occupation, the structures of apartheid in Palestine and denying the right to return for Palestinian refugees. Technological infrastructures within Jerusalem are at the center of the destabilization of Palestinian society and contribute to the daily and entrenched forms of humiliation of indigenous Palestinians including the vast system of military checkpoints, forced dispossession and home demolitions. As ethical and active students with a global perspective, committed to social justice and anti-colonialism, we objected to the event that served in justifying and whitewashing apartheid and normalizing violations of international law. Barkat’s message and tour reinforces Islamophobia and anti-Arab racism globally. Examples of policies implemented and/or run by Barkat include:

  • The Jerusalem Master Plan, an official city policy that calls the Palestinian presence in the city “a demographic threat.” The Plan implements ethnic cleansing policies with an intended 70% Jewish and 30% Palestinian demography by the year 2020.
  • Calls for the raiding and demolishing of homes, shootings of gas canisters into residential areas, arrests of children, blocking off roads for Palestinians, and the building of illegal settlements in East Jerusalem.
  • Revoking citizenship of Palestinian families whose family members were killed by Israeli forces in the recent Palestinian intifada or uprising, in October 2015.
  • Supporting policies that forbid Palestinians from renting housing in Jerusalem and policies that oust Palestinians from Israeli Universities.
  • Denial of Palestinian neighborhood access to municipal services such as waste removal, which in turn threatens public health.

As students, we are deeply disturbed that our University, which claims to advocate for social justice, is actively involved in creating safe spaces for hate speech and the promotion of international law violations by offering a stage for Barkat. It is our responsibility as student leaders for equality to act ethically and stand up against oppression wherever it may occur, including in Palestine.

Clarifications on meanings behind slogans used during protest

“Long Live the Intifada!” The term “intifada” emerges from the Palestinian anti-colonial struggle, referring to a “shaking off” of the Israeli occupation of Palestine. Claims that it means the eradication of a Jewish presence in Palestine, or condones violence against Jews, are unfounded. This is not how we used it. Students participating in the protest consciously use the term within the “shaking off” framework of anti- colonial struggle. To us, intifada means the struggle for freedom, justice and equality for all people.

“From the River to the Sea Palestine will be Free” It envisions a liberated Arab world free from colonial and racist reigns. The statement does not condone or warrant anti-semitism. We, social justice minded students, recognize combating anti-semitism as central to the struggle in fighting for justice and freedom of all people. The term refers to a liberation of Palestine and centers the importance of a right of return for the near 6-million Palestinian refugees in exile.

On the Administration’s Response

On April 7th, president Wong sent an email to the university titled “Civil Discourse” calling for an investigation of the protesters (PDF). Such acts criminalize anti-racist speech on campus which voice an end to the occupation of Palestine. The attack on pro-Palestine protesters sends the message that anti-Palestinian hate speech is protected and tolerated as freedom of expression by the SFSU administration, but freedom of expression for social justice is systematically criminalized and condemned. President Wong at the Arab Cultural and Community Center in 2013 promised to break the cycle of double standards, censorship and criminalization of Arab, Muslim and Palestinian student centered activism on campus. Today, we demand that he stay true to that promise, emphasizes the safety of his students by condemning threats from 3rd party organizations and stand with the students united for social justice and a liberated Palestine.

La Lucha Sigue, The Fight Continues, Long Live International Solidarity, Free Palestine!

-SFSU Students Who Protested Jerusalem Mayor

Mondoweiss Editors

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10 Responses

  1. Emory Riddle on May 5, 2016, 1:29 pm

    Yet another gutless college president bends to donor pressure and outlaws free speech

  2. amigo on May 5, 2016, 4:16 pm

    A war criminal given the red carpet treatment in the home of civil rights protests and anti Vietnam struggle.

    His presence is a smear on the City of SF.

  3. ritzl on May 6, 2016, 12:19 am


    “To us, intifada means…” Skip the “to us” part. Too apologetic. Intifada means what it means, and it’s not just to you. It means struggle/”shaking off” to most normal people outside your insatiable accusers’ little circle of lie fabricators and rights crushers.

    Palestine will be free! Universal suffrage is the key!

    Yeah, keeping my day job, but that way (or similar) of expressing the sentiment specifically eliminates any fabricated allusion to violence. What’s more American than universal suffrage, and what’s more quintessentially Israeli than the total ABSENCE of it (especially/topically in Barkat’s mayoralty).

  4. bryan on May 6, 2016, 5:39 am

    “As students, we are deeply disturbed that our University, which claims to advocate for social justice, is actively involved in creating safe spaces for hate speech and the promotion of international law violations by offering a stage for Barkat.”

    I totally disagree: sunlight is the best disinfectant. Your battle will be won only by the contest of free and open debate. You must now hold the university authorities to the obligation to create safe space and equal opportunities for opponents of Barkat. You should welcome the opportunities to publicise your just cause by protesting and debating even with the defenders of the indefensible. Did the occasion offer any opportunity for asking questions? Would this not have been more effective than merely flag-waving?

    “From the River to the Sea”

    You can rationalise the use of such slogans, but can you not find more effective ones? Is your task not to persuade those in the middle ground who are not already committed to one side or the other? Support for the State of Israel is partly based on trauma – historically real and genuine, but more recently largely manufactured by manipulative politicians and lobbies. Is it helpful to your cause to reinforce these “traumas”?

    What did neutrals take away from your protest? Was it the recognition of the atrocious injustices of the oppressive regime in Jerusalem, or was it a reaffirmation of the intransigent hostility of a small group of unrepresentative agitators? Being a martyr for a cause is easy; rising above your own victimhood is much more challenging.

  5. Sassy on May 6, 2016, 10:07 am


    It’s amazing that Israel can only exist (or survive) on the back of racism and apartheid with U.S. Support and U.S. Taxpayer dollars. I long for the day that when we think of Israel we will think of her advancements and expertise in technology, pharmaceuticals, agriculture, etc. rather than her Apartheid.

  6. Boo on May 6, 2016, 11:33 am

    I remember well, back in the Vietnam era, when San Francisco State was renowned for the struggle between its activist student body and its then-President, S. I. Hayakawa. It seems, these many decades later, that under President Leslie Wong “the fight continues”.

    The “civil discourse” Wong promotes can find no home at SFSU’s Hillel — nor at Hillels nationwide — when any criticism of the State of Israel is barred from their premises. When civil discourse is rendered impossible, confrontation becomes the predictable next step.

    S. I. Hayakawa famously said, “We should keep the Panama Canal. After all, we stole it fair and square”. (I acknowledge he may have had just the tip of his tongue in his cheek.)

    There’s no doubt that Nir Barkat echoes the same sentiment — but lacking any trace of irony — when it comes to East Jerusalem and the Occupied Territories. Why should he not be confronted with that?

  7. Les on May 6, 2016, 12:35 pm

    Because East Jerusalem is not in Israel, we have to ask who is the mayor of East Jerusalem and who elected him or her?

  8. Paul Larudee on May 6, 2016, 6:14 pm

    It’s an important fact that on Dec 26, 2011, Barkat announced plans to strip 70,000 Palestinians or their Jerusalem IDs.

  9. eljay on May 6, 2016, 7:26 pm

    Mr. Barkat: Israeli mayor of the Israeli colony of Israeli-occupied Jerusalem. I hope that before too long he and his “Jewish State” masters choose or are forced to remove their jackboots from the neck of the Free City.

  10. JLewisDickerson on May 8, 2016, 11:43 am

    RE: “On April 7th, president Wong sent an email to the university titled ‘Civil Discourse’ calling for an investigation of the protesters (PDF)”. – Mondoweiss Editors


    • “If there be time to expose through discussion the falsehood and fallacies, to avert the evil by the process of education, the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence.” ~ Whitney v. California, 1927

    • “No danger flowing from speech can be deemed clear and present unless the incidence of the evil apprehended is so imminent that it may befall before there is an opportunity for full discussion. Only an emergency can justify repression.”

    • “Fear of serious injury cannot alone justify suppression of free speech and assembly. Men feared witches and burned women. It is the function of speech to free men from the bondage of irrational fears.”

    • “The constitutional right of free speech has been declared to be the same in peace and war. In peace, too, men may differ widely as to what loyalty to our country demands, and an intolerant majority, swayed by passion or by fear, may be prone in the future, as it has been in the past, to stamp as disloyal opinions with which it disagrees.”

    SOURCE –

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