Tag Archives: activism

Deconstructing Israeli Democracy: Ben White, Max Blumenthal, Camelia Suleiman

Watch livestream here.

As part of Palestine Awareness Week 2013, Students Allied for Freedom and Equality presents a panel discussing the Israeli occupation of Palestine and apartheid regime. Ben White will be discussing apartheid policies and how flawed the mainstream understanding of Israel as a “democracy” is. Max Blumenthal will be adding to this discussion the domestic projection of right-wing Zionism through Islamophobia, hasbara, lobbying, etc. Dr. Camelia Suleiman will conclude with the successes and failures of Israeli and Palestinian women peace activism.


Ben White is a freelance journalist and writer specializing in Palestine/Israel. He also writes on the broader Middle East, Islam and Christianity, and the ‘war on terror.’ Ben has been to Palestine/Israel many times since 2003 and has a BA in English Literature from Cambridge. He is the author of two books, Israeli Ap…artheid: A Beginner’s Guide and Palestinians in Israel: Segregation, Discrimination and Democracy.

Max Blumenthal is an award-winning journalist and bestselling author whose articles and video documentaries have appeared in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Daily Beast, The Nation, The Guardian, The Independent Film Channel, The Huffington Post, Salon.com, Al Jazeera English and many other publications. He is a writing fellow for the Nation Institute. His book, Republican Gomorrah: Inside The Movement That Shattered The Party, is a New York Times and Los Angeles Times bestseller.

Camelia Suleiman has a Ph.D. in Linguistics from Georgetown University. Her research interest is in the area of language and identity in relation to gender, politicians’ use of language in the media, and national identity. Her articles have appeared in a variety of journals including ‘Pragmatics’, ‘Journal of Psycholinguistic Research’, ‘Middle East Critique’ and ‘Middle East Journal of Culture and Communication’. Her book, ‘Language and Identity in the Israel-Palestine Conflict: The Politics of Self-Perception’ was published in 2011 by I.B. Tauris.

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Dear friends and allies,We are excited to announce that the second National Students for Justice in Palestine (NSJP) Conference will be hosted by us right here at the University of Michigan from November 2nd – 4th!!!

Will you support the largest student network for Palestinian solidarity in the United States and help us grow into an organized force for justice?

Titled “From Local Roots to Nationwide Branches: Bridging Student Movements,” this year’s gathering will focus on solidifying a national structure, sharing valuable knowledge across campuses, drawing connections to other indigenous and anti-racist struggles, and facilitating vital discussion on the growing Palestine solidarity movement.

NSJP hopes to build on the successes of last year’s conference, which was organized entirely by students and volunteers and attended by 350 students from across 130 campuses. But in order to make this conference a success, we need help from the broader community. Your financial support will go towards helping students from across the country who wish to attend the conference but cannot afford the full cost of travel. Last year, donations from supporters like you helped 80 students who could not afford travel costs attend the conference, and we hope that you will help us continue to offer this level of student support.

Last year, Continue reading

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It’s Time to Talk About Palestine

By Noor Haydar, LSA Senior at the University of Michigan and Bayan Founas, LSA Sophomore at the University of Michigan. This piece was also featured in the Michigan Daily, which can be seen here.

Over the past couple years, there has been increased curiosity and speculation about SAFE (Students Allied for Freedom & Equality) and what it stands for. Simply put, SAFE is a diverse group of student activists at the University of Michigan, organized to promote justice, human rights, liberation, and self-determination for the Palestinian people, as well as other oppressed people. We are committed to standing with the disenfranchised and are staunchly against the sugarcoating of oppression. Furthermore, we do not approve of allowing representatives of a government that is currently militarily occupying another nation and imposing an apartheid system on people whom it claims as citizens to come speak on our campus. When Ishmael Khaldi, a top advisor to Avigdor Lieberman (Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs) came to our campus, many student activists were offended by the fact that our university, which prides itself on social justice, openly provided a platform for Khaldi to speak. Lieberman, Khaldi’s boss, has blatantly employed his racism on more than one occasion, and according to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, Lieberman said: “[Palestinian] prisoners should be drowned in the Dead Sea” and that he would provide the buses to take them there. In an interview with The Sunday Telegraph, Lieberman said that Arabs and Jews must be separated in order to achieve peace in the Middle East.  In other words, Israel’s 1.25 million Arab minority was a “problem” which required “separation” from the Jewish state. Interestingly enough, he believes, in his own words, that minorities are “the world’s biggest problem,” despite being a minority himself. Khaldi spoke about Arabs in Israel and the great privileges they enjoy, yet the people who Khaldi claims to represent (Arab Bedouins) are being expelled from their land on a daily basis. Khaldi travels as a mouth piece for Lieberman, and his fallacious and racist remarks are all reasons why we walked out of his speaking engagement in protest.

When we used a similar protest method against two Israeli Occupying soldiers who visited our campus last year, we were faced with criticism for not “dialoguing.” This call for dialogue is inappropriate in a situation where the power disparity between parties is so immense. Dialogue can only work when two parties are on the same playing field and have significant differences between them. In the case of Israel-Palestine, we have one party, Israel, that boasts the Middle East’s most powerful military (including hundreds of nuclear warheads, illegally held and undeclared) and enjoys limitless material and diplomatic support from the world’s lone superpower, the United States. The Palestinians, on the other hand, are stateless and without basic human rights. They are also victims of the worst of crimes: they’ve had their history and existence denied by those who continuously assert that Palestine was “a land without a people for a people without a land.” Although Palestinians have received overwhelming recognition internationally, Israel and the United States have yet to recognize the Palestinian struggle, much less push for their right to self-determination and freedom from a brutal occupation.

Our mission statement emphasizes that we are a student organization contributing to the campus community as social justice advocates. Nowhere within our mission statement will you find that we are anti-Semitic or anti-Jewish. We, as an organization, do not endorse or ally ourselves with any political platform, organization or politician. We don’t advocate for a one-state, two-state or no-state solution. We do not support the PLO, Hamas, Fatah or any such entity. We simply believe in the self-determination of the Palestinian people.

In October, 30 SAFE members attended the first national Students for Justice in Palestine conference at Columbia University. The conference was endorsed by many national activists, including Ali Abunimah, Noam Chomsky, and Cornel West. Before departing, members from the 140+ schools represented voted on points of unity, those being:

Students for Justice in Palestine is a student organization that works in solidarity with the Palestinian people and supports their right to self-determination.

It is committed to:

1. Ending Israel’s occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall;

2. Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and

3. Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194.

We believe it’s time to bring Palestine to the forefront of our conversations at this university. Next semester, we will be launching our PalestiMe campaign, as it is time, for Palestine.


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I Throw My Small Pebble Against The Sea: Statement on the University of Michigan Disinvestment from Israel

By Nesha Z. Haniff

[The following is a transcript of Professor Haniff’s address to the University of Michigan’s student governing body in regards to divestment from corporations profiting off of the Israeli occupation of Palestine]

I have felt the injustices suffered by the Palestinians so deeply and viscerally for so many years that now when I hear reports on anything Israeli/Palestine I turn away because I become engulfed in a wave of defeat and helplessness. It is never good news. It is never a fair and just rendering. At these times I feel like a victim, a construct against which I have devoted my entire life. I, so privileged and fortunate and empowered have no tools, no coping mechanism, no psychological ploy to extricate myself from this space and so I turn away, pretending that if I don’t hear it and see it that I can laugh and live. But it is real, deep in my conscience. I live this every time I get on a plane to go somewhere and my body has to be photographed, every time I have to think about the fluids I cannot pack, every time I must take off my shoes and feel the cold floor of the airport. No one can convince me that the palpable injustice suffered everyday by the Palestinians is not at the heart of this. Religion may be the tool but this injustice is the driver.

I am aware of the Palestinians own implosion, of the Hamas, Fatah discord, and the bickering of the many Palestinian factions; of the great hypocrisy and ineptness of the Arab league and the privileging of oil over brotherhood, bravery and justice. The current Arab uprisings are just a small expression of very long and deep wounds. It is ironic that the Nobel prize winner Tawakkul Karman, the Yemeni activist spoke at the University yesterday. That the prize was given to a woman is a signal that yes women are engaged in the struggle everyday in just making their families and societies survive, yet these same women bear the brunt of a brutal masculinity and the Palestinian struggle itself has been couched in a masculinity that can find no other way of resisting than violence. And the University of Michigan is proud to publicly wave her presence as a sign of their intellectual and Arab inclusiveness while at the same time investing in Israel colluding with policies of oppression and dehumanization. This act unmasks as a front the University’s great liberal agenda premised on dubious investments.

You cannot live in America and not know or understand Israel’s case or position- that they must defend themselves because they are living in the midst of those who do not want Israel to exist. On the one hand Some Palestinians do say this, but that Israel does exist, and has friends in high places that ensure their existence – that they have the weapons, and the funds that are necessary to do this exposes the emptiness of this mantra. On the other hand Israel does not have to say that they do not want Palestine to exist they can just simply build everywhere they wish and slowly erase it. Those Palestinians who continue to say that Israel should not exist are not in touch with reality.

When I received a letter from a student from the school of Public health to come here and support their campaign to publicly advance a University of Michigan financial disengagement, I was first taken aback by their bravery by their effrontery. It did cross my mind that I should not do this. But I decided to do this because it was the one time when I can actually stand up and throw my small pebble against the sea. I can for three minutes no longer be a victim of my conscience and turn away. I asked the student how many people that she asked to come and speak here responded. She told me no one. When I told a few of my friends that I was doing this they began to shift in their chairs and make funny comments about my going underground. Why is there such fear to speak against injustice when it involves Israel by privileged educated folk who know that there is grave injustice here. I know there are more Jews in Israel who oppose what is happening in Palestine than we see here in the US. I am reminded at this moment of Martin Luther King Junior’s statement in his letter from a Birmingham jail:

“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends”

I am here to support the students campaign to financially disengage from Israel for several reasons:

1.    As a teacher I try to politicize my students about their responsibility towards injustice and the courage they must have to at least speak and not collude with injustice by their silence. How can I be silent myself when offered this opportunity to speak a true word.

2.    I often feel  helpless, that I pay my taxes which are used to wage wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and yes fund Israel. I silently subscribe to policies because the hegemony of America is like a tsunami that engulfs us all. How can I fight  the sea.

3.    I am a product of the University of Michigan. I was a young girl when I went on strike during BAM 1. I have gone to school here and have taught here for years. I can throw a rock at this investment in Israel and stand with the three students who dare to say no to this. Perhaps if enough of us throw rocks we can act upon and change the shape of this investment so it can reflect what we want. We must not only be good at resisting but good at creating. Bring us to the table and let us reason with you. Exclusion is undemocratic.

I do this for myself, my university and those of us who want an America that conducts itself with an even hand.

I do this also for my students in whom I have tried to instill a passion for social justice. To them and to you, I leave you with these words of Ernesto Che Guevara in a letter he left for his children.

Your father has been a man that acted according to his beliefs and certainly been faithful to his convictions.

Grow up as good revolutionaries. Study hard to able to dominate techniques that permit the domination of nature. Remember that the Revolution is what is important and that each one of us, on our own, is worthless.

Above all, try always to be able to feel deeply any injustice committed against any person in any part of the world. It is the most beautiful quality of a revolutionary.

-Che Guevara

Thank you.

Nesha Z. Haniff

November 15, 2011

Ann Arbor

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