Guest contribution by Ghassan Rafeedie
The upcoming Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) National Conference is a showcase of talented pro-Palestine advocates, writers, and artists from around the country who will spend a weekend learning from each other in order to advance the cause of equality for Palestinians. While students will be learning from both the successes and setbacks of the past year, the good news is that we have more successes than ever to learn from. These lessons will serve as a springboard for the activities on college campuses during this academic year for the more than 130 SJP chapters around the country. By supporting this conference, we can help those students go above and beyond the already impressive list of actions on campuses recently.
Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) victories came early and often for SJPs last year, with each victory getting Palestinians one step closer to equality. Boycott victories were won at Evergreen State College in Washington State and Earlham College in Indiana. SJPs also oversaw three victorious, permanent divestment votes at University of California chapters in Berkeley, San Diego and Irvine (with Irvine’s vote being unanimous). Oberlin College in Ohio passed a divestment resolution, which shocked even the most optimistic Palestinian activists like myself.
Zionist organizations attempted to stop the march toward equal rights for Palestinians by launching attacks against pro-Palestine organizing on three college campuses via Title VI laws with the Department of Education. Thanks to our incredible support system, those cases were dismissed along with the notion that SJPs can be intimidated into silence.
In Ohio, students have created debates about Palestine that were unimaginable even ten years ago. In Florida, students are sending a message that school administrators cannot ignore and intimidate their way to making Israel innocent of its crimes. West Coast SJPs have grown so large and effective that they have needed to create their own network group and their own conference to support their amazing regional system.
These accomplishments happened with what one activist said (with only a slight exaggeration) was “bake sale money.” SJPs around the country are doing incredible things, and we expect our momentum to continue into this year with more divestment initiatives, a more diverse coalition of support, and more SJP chapters than ever before. We are connected by our desire to create change in Palestine and our knowledge that the best way forward is one in which we demand equality for all of Palestine’s children, regardless of their race or religion.
What we need now is to get our amazing activists to this conference. They need to be here and learn about the challenges and opportunities we face as a collective whole and as individuals. The Zionist harassment and intimidation is not going to stop because of our success. In fact, it will likely get more desperate with each victory. And the failure of Zionists to intimidate us through the legal system is not necessarily our victory. Our goal is not just to fight Zionist intimidation. Our goal is to free Palestine. With your help we can organize that goal and make sure the Palestinian perspective is heard and respected. Please help us bring students to the SJP National Conference by donating and showing your support.
Ghassan Rafeedie is a member of SJP National and can be found on Twitter at @Ghassandwich.