Activists for the Open Hillel movement and the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement have put together a sparkling and humorous web series called Ac’tiv•ist that traces the fortunes of young activists on campus seeking to have that college divest from Israel. The finale just aired; the whole show is available here. Here’s their Facebook page, and what follows is a press release about the show.
In the same week that Governor Cuomo signed his BDS “blacklist” policy and the American Association of Anthropologists narrowly failed to pass a divestment resolution, young Jewish and Palestinian activists released the season finale of their darkly-comedic divestment web series. The most recent episode takes aim at college administrators for backing special interests over students and highlights the urgency of organizing for divestment.
Ac’tiv•ist follows the exhausting, inspiring, and absurd nature of students campaigning to have their college divest from Israel. It has released six ten-minute episodes available for free online at http://www.activistshow.com/.
The finale begins with the main character, student organizer Sam Rushbad, challenging her mother, the dean, about the college’s relationship with fraternities. “Shouldn’t you be confronting frats on misogyny and sexual assault, not giving them insurance tips?” Sam asks. The debate quickly turns to Sam’s work on divestment and ends with the dean sinisterly claiming that “those Palestinian kids are trouble.”
According to creator and executive producer Joshua Wolfsun, it was important to show the structural nature of administrative hostility to student organizing. “We started the first episode with the dean having a folder from AIPAC in her purse,” said Wolfsun. “One of the realities of campus organizing is that administrators get pressured by Pro-Israel lobbyists to silence students. We really wanted to illustrate the effects of that power dynamic in this final episode.”
The show’s writers and producers include student leaders from the successful UCLA divestment campaign and the Open Hillel movement. While the show is a work of fiction that takes a humorously heightened approach to the experiences of organizing on campus, its core is rooted in the real experiences of its creators.
“I started writing when Hillel International was threatening to sue my college’s Jewish community,” said Wolfsun. “I was comparing what I was reading about us with the reality of our sleepless nights. It’s easy for students doing this work to be demonized, which is exactly why it’s important to tell these stories.”
Executive Producer Alaa Abuadas, a recent graduate of UCLA who was an organizer behind her school’s divestment campaign, agrees. “This show is about humorously and honestly depicting experiences like the ones we had when we were doing organizing on campus.”