Two Israel propaganda events at different Chicago-area universities were creatively protested last night, showing that Israel and its supporters are having a hard time going unchallenged these days.
Approximately thirty students and members of the community disrupted an event titled “Israel 101” at DePaul University sponsored by national pro-Israel group StandWithUs — whose members have physically attacked solidarity activists. Video shows the protesters fact-checking the propaganda presentation using the “human mic” tactic popularized by the occupy movement. The room is left nearly empty after the protesters empty the space en masse.
The same number of persons staged a silent walk-out during an event hosted by the Medill school of journalism at Northwestern University featuring Gil Hoffman, columnist with the right-wing The Jerusalem Post and an Israeli army reservist, sponsored by media intimidation group CAMERA and the Zionist Organization of America.
A full press release about the DePaul and Northwestern actions is below.
The battle for the campus
While Zionist groups are divided over how to disrupt the growing Palestine solidarity movement on US campuses, there is a general consensus that campus solidarity organizing is threatening the status quo of unquestioned and unlimited US support of Israel.
Student activists are bravely standing up despite the threat of censorship and prosecution. This risk was made vividly evident with the persecution of the Irvine 11 students who were convicted of criminal charges for disrupting — using only their voices — a speech by the Israeli ambassador to the US.
By standing up, students in Chicago last night directly challenged those who are trying to silence criticism of Israel on US campuses and stem the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement more generally.
Earlier this year, The Electronic Intifada exposed the role of StandWithUs and the Israeli government in a lawsuit targeting Olympia Food Co-op, whose board last year voted to take Israeli products off of their shelves.
There have been several walkouts protesting Israeli propaganda events across the US — a protest at the University of Michigan last year started a wave of similar actions — leaving Israel’s unashamed spokespersons stammering before empty rooms. Despite the impressive funding and resources of groups like StandWithUs, these empty rooms show that their lies are not exactly resonating with young Americans.
The youth wing of Jewish Voice for Peace disrupted a Birthright Israel event featuring a venture capitalist earlier this week. The activists used the human mic tactic and occupy movement slogans and showed the power of connecting Palestine with domestic struggles for justice.
Full press release on DePaul and Northwestern walkouts
Student activists distributed the following press release by email today:
Students and community members stage simultaneous walkouts of Israeli political events at Northwestern and DePaul Universities
CHICAGO, IL (November 11, 2011)—On the evening of November 10th, students and community members staged two simultaneous walkouts at events promoting Israel’s narrative of its history and politics. At Northwestern University’s Evanston campus, demonstrators held a silent walkout during a presentation by Gil Hoffman, an Israeli military reservist and journalist. Meanwhile, on DePaul’s Lincoln Park campus, students and community members used the “People’s Mic” technique - popularized by Occupy Wall Street - to disrupt a presentation sponsored by the organization Stand With Us. Organizers say that they protested because the presentations omitted the disturbing reality of Israel’s repeated violations of international law and countless human rights abuses against the Palestinian people.
At DePaul, a group of about thirty concerned individuals “fact checked” an event called “Israel 101,” sponsored by Stand With Us, an organization that seeks to brand Israel in a friendly and positive light. Demonstrators interrupted the presentation, stood up, and announced a statement about Israeli violations of Palestinian human rights. According to one of the participants, University of Chicago student Ishan Chakrabarti: “We used a version of the ‘People’s Mic’ technique, recently utilized by the Occupy Wall Street movement. We challenged Israel 101’s propaganda and selective history and spoke truth to power by amplifying our voices.” The “fact check” was followed by a walkout and teach-in.
At Northwestern University, around thirty students and community members protested a presentation entitled “63 Reasons to Like Israel: Why American Jews should be Optimistic about Israel,” featuring Gil Hoffman, a reserve soldier and spokesman for the Israeli military as well as the chief political correspondent/analyst for The Jerusalem Post. Co-sponsors of the event included the Coalition for Accuracy of Middle East Reporting in America and the Zionist Organization of America. The university’s Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) chapter staged a walkout on Hoffman’s speech, inspired by the example of other student groups around the Midwest, including The University of Michigan, Benedictine University and Wayne State University. Outside, a diverse crowd demonstrated in support of the walkout.
DePaul student Agnieszka Karoluk explained, “At DePaul, we made up about three-quarters of the audience. At Northwestern, they filled a third of the room. We made it obvious that the community at large does not tolerate the promotion of Israel at the expense of Palestinian human rights.” A handful of protesters at both events decided to stay behind to engage in civil debate and discussion.
Organizers say these actions are part of the recent rise of a new global political consciousness about Palestine. This is reflected not only through non-violent protests and walkouts, but also through the growing “Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions” (BDS) movement, which reuses the methods that helped dismantle apartheid in South Africa. For the third year in a row, international solidarity activists non- violently challenged Israel’s six-year blockade of Gaza. These events reflect the success of civil disobedience in achieving concrete political change across the world, from the US civil rights movement to the South African anti-apartheid struggle. Palestinians and their supporters are part of this history.