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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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Michigan BDS: SAFE’s New Campus Divestment Initiative

By members of the new SAFE-affiliated MichiganBDS initiative at the University of Michigan. This piece was also featured in the Michigan Daily here.

As we write this piece, more than 5,300 Palestinians are imprisoned in Israeli jails. Zero Israelis are imprisoned in Palestinian jails. A total of 24,813 Palestinian homes have been demolished by Israel since 1967. Zero Israeli homes have been demolished by Palestinians since then. Some 172 Jewish-only settlements and 101 “outposts” have been erected on confiscated Palestinian land. Zero Palestinian settlements exist on any Israeli land. These facts and many like them make clear that what is happening in Israel and the Palestinian territories is not simply a “conflict.” It’s a decades-long colonial campaign led by the Israeli military that aims to disenfranchise the indigenous race and to purify the land of non-Jews by implementing an apartheid system. Continue reading

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Combating Zionist Colonization Through the Ages

By Bayan Founas & Suha Najjar, LSA Sophomores at the University of Michigan

“The fading-out of a cruel and shameful period of world history has coincided with the emergence…of a new offshoot of European Imperialism and a new variety of racist Colonialism,” otherwise known as Zionism.1 As defined by founders of the movement, Zionism is a political movement based on the belief of the creation of a Jewish Homeland in present day Israel. It is falsely believed that Zionism surfaced during the Nazi era, but in fact, it has its roots in the late 19th century.  Since then, it has evolved into a movement of conquest, characterized by its racist conduct, expansionist stance, and violent disposition. Due to Zionism’s colonial and imperialistic nature, it is fallacious to conceive that the struggle against Zionism is only a Palestinian struggle; rather it is a struggle that ought to encompass all of humanity.

The first Jewish settlements in Palestine began in the 1870s by early proto-Zionists “Hovevei Zion” (Lovers of Zion).  Anti-Jewish riots in Southwest Imperial Russia in 1881, termed pogroms, lead to a greater influx of Jewish immigration into Palestine. Protesters of the pogroms blamed Jews for Tsar Alexander II’s assassination as well as the economic competition that Jews presented.  The new Tsar Alexander III directed these pogroms to highlight blame on the Jewish community for the riots. Those that immigrated to Palestine to escape these harsh rulings and accusations segregated themselves from the Palestinian natives.  It is believed that this was partly due to a sense of European superiority, where Europeans believed that Europe was the only advanced and truly civilized society.  The segregation was also thought to have been attributable to a belief in Jewish superiority over non-Jews as God’s chosen people.  This superiority was stressed by Moshe Ben Maimon (Maimonides) to not mix with gentiles (non-Jews), which immigrants took with them to Palestine.

These settlers created the establishment of ethnic segregation between the Jews and Arabs in Palestine, but journalist Theodore Herzl, the “father” of political Zionism, did not stress the ideology of having a Jewish Homeland until the 1890’s.  Herzl was assigned to cover the legal case of Captain Alfred Dreyfus, a Jewish officer in the French Army who in 1894 was falsely charged with treason.  These accusations fueled the theme of anti-Semitism, which led Herzl to write Der Judenstaat (The Jewish State, 1896), outlining his vision of a Jewish state to escape anti-Semitism.  The British offered Herzl Argentina or Uganda as possible Jewish Homelands, but Palestine was officially chosen at the first Zionist Congress of 1897 because it had a growing settler population and contained Zion (Jerusalem).  At the congress, the World Zionist Organization was established with Herzl as the President, where it was highly likely the slogan was created, “land without people for a people without land,” in reference to Palestine.  By 1917, Zionists were “officially” granted a Jewish Homeland in Palestine through the Balfour Declaration.  Lord Balfour wrote in 1919: “In Palestine, we do not even propose to consult the inhabitants of the country. (Zionism’s) immediate needs and hopes for the future are much more important than the desires and prejudices of the 700,000 Arabs who presently inhabit Palestine.” 2,3

Israel's construction of the apartheid wall segregates Israelis and Palestinians.

Zionism has gained its reputation as a descendant of European colonialism by virtue of three principal components. The first is its inherent racism. With its racial exclusiveness, supremacy, and self-segregation, Zionism demands political, legal and economic power for Jews over those of the indigenous population.4 Zionist imagination and subsequent internalization that the land of Palestine was uninhabited and desolate justified the demolition of Palestinian life in the same way that the annihilation of Native Americans was vindicated in racism.  The view that more radical forms of Zionism have only recently emerged is also false. Indicating Zionism’s inherent colonialist nature, Herzl once said, “If His Majesty, the Sultan were to give us Palestine, we could in return undertake to regulate the whole finances of Turkey. We should there form a portion of a rampart of Europe against Asia, an outpost of civilization as opposed to barbarism.” This view of Zionism as a racist entity is not restricted to any one group. The UN General assembly passed resolution 3379 in 1975 that “determined that Zionism is a form of racism and racial discrimination.” The resolution was revoked in 1991 because of pressure by the U.S. president, George H.W Bush, due to the undeniable strength of the pro-Zionist lobby within the states.

The second characteristic is Zionism’s expansionist stance. In 1938, David Ben-Gurion, the eventual first prime minister of Israel, made it clear of his support for the establishment of a Jewish state on parts of Palestine only as an intermediary stage. “[I am] satisfied with part of the country, but on the basis of the assumption that after we build up a strong force following the establishment of the state–we will abolish the partition of the country and we will expand to the whole Land of Israel.”5 The map below depicts the ongoing territorial expansion of the state of Israel into Palestinian land. Today, Israel is on the forefront of expansionism through its creation of illegal settlements in the occupied territories.

Activists chaining their arms to olive trees, symbolizing their strong ties to the land

The last contributing factor is Israel’s tendency to resort to violence in their efforts to expand and conquer. This was most prevalent in 1948 with Al-Nakba (the Catastrophe), the year that saw the mass deportation of over 700,000 Palestinians from their cities and villages, massacres of civilians, and the razing to the ground of hundreds of Palestinian villages.6 In a continued expansionist effort, Israel creates an overwhelming amount of environmental damage and physical destruction of Palestinian landscape, such as by uprooting trees.  By doing this, Israel hopes Palestinians will succumb to leaving their homes. Also in Gaza, Israel holds access to food, water, electricity, humanitarian aid, and medical supplies as a weapon that targets human life.  Through violence and damage to living entities, Israel’s conquering efforts are seen through such intimidation.

Some may argue that Zionism is worse than other European colonial movements. In regards to isolationism and exclusiveness, Zionism is worse in that it did not wish to just turn the population into a servant one, like the British did in India, or the French in North Africa, but rather they hoped to expel the indigenous population as a whole (Al-Nakba). Also, unlike the South African imperialists who “brazenly proclaim their sin, the Zionist practitioners of apartheid in Palestine beguilingly protest their innocence.”7 Benjamin Pogrund argues, “In any event, what is racism? Under apartheid it was skin colour. Applied to Israel that’s a joke: for proof of that, just look at a crowd of Israeli Jews and their gradations in skin-color from the ‘blackest’ to the ‘whitest’.” But Jews define themselves as not simply a religion but also a race. Therefore, classifying a state as consisting of a single race creates a platform for racism by not considering the indigenous people that are not of that single race. In the case of Zionism, non-Jews, especially the indigenous Arab population, are targeted as an inferior race.

Summary map indicating Palestinian loss of land since 1947

Like every past struggle against colonialism, it is indisputable that it was the duty of every human being with the ability to make a difference to end the injustices. Israel is tyrannizing over a native people and infringing upon their territorial and human rights. The endeavor against Zionism did not simply begin after Herzl or Al-Nakba; rather it is a continued struggle against a larger operation, colonialism. Combating Zionist colonization must be brought to the forefront of the world’s agenda, as Palestinians’ daily struggle against the occupation should be a struggle for all.  Mila Pernice, a journalist and member of the Palestine Forum, said, “If I speak of Zionism as a colonialist ideology supported by imperialist countries, then the struggle against Zionism is not only a Palestinian struggle. It is mine, yours and ours.”

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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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