VIDEO: MSU students stage mass walkout of StandWithUs sponsored Israel army event

Students at Michigan State University (MSU) protested a presentation by two Israeli soldiers visiting their campus by staging a mass walk out on 21 February, a video posted on YouTube shows.

Among others, the presentation was sponsored by StandWithUs, a group that works closely with the Israeli government to spread its views in the US and suppress speech by opponents of Israeli policies, and the MSU Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC), a training program for college students run by the US military on campuses.

Text accompanying the video states in part:

On Tuesday, February 21st, 2012, two IDF soldiers came to Michigan State University to spew pro-Israel propaganda and speak about their ‘experiences’. They were co-sponsored by MSU ROTC, MSU Stand With Us and the MSU Hillel.

Students Allied for Freedom and Equality (SAFE) found out on Sunday night, less than 48 hours before the proposed event to take place on Tuesday. Faced with less than two days to decide a reaction and possible means, SAFE had to think and act quick. Looking to the SAFE at University of Michigan, and SJP’s around the country for various protests and reactions to this type of propaganda, MSU SAFE decided to attempt a walkout. With only three people attending a preliminary meeting, and only with fifteen confirmed in attendance, SAFE was unsure of the effects of a walkout with such low attendance.

However, as SAFE organizers waited nervously at the meeting location on Tuesday, dozens of people showed up. Dispersing finally to the location of the event, more SAFE supporters and members showed up - over 40 people. The hall originally only featured a few rows, but after SAFE filled those rows, ROTC brought out more chairs for the intended audience. Hence, the ROTC cadets sitting in the back of the room.

After sitting through enough propaganda, SAFE ‘walked out’.

After the walk out, ROTC requested that we return to explain our actions. SAFE declined to strengthen the message and reinforce the symbolism of being ‘silenced.’

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Comments

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Wish that someone could have been a voice at the event to inform the audience what the protest was about. Perhaps someone could help inform us as to their experinces from this perspective. Many of us are still talking about it, but we only have one side of what it is like to live there. I knew there would be a protest and hoped to have a dialogue that is why I didn't require student IDs to get into the event. I am most glad it was a peaceful protest. In the end thank you for raising our awareness. Hopefully, we can have a dialogue in the future.

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All of them were MSU students, so checking ID is completely irrelevant and an extremely racist comment. Pretty shocking that Muslims are getting educated right along side you, huh?

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We were scheduled to be in the classroom with the students and we moved to the ball room to accommodate more people. I don’t understand how after being informed that there would be a protest from people that were not students (even if they were), and I did not try to keep them out. After not checking IDs, as I was advised to do, hoping that we would have a dialogue from different perspectives, I am making an “extremely racist comment.” I am not surprised that “Muslims are getting educated right along side” as I support all of the university policies and encourage diversity of views and experiences. The night after this event we had speakers from Saudi Arabia, Morocco & Yemen talk about culture and living in the Middle East to the students. We also had some great food.

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We didn't come back to explain ourselves for two main reasons. One, we didn't want to detract from the symbolism of the walkout. Two, our point was to send a message to the IDF soldiers and the groups who brought them (specifically StandWithUs) that we won't let them spew propaganda on our campus without a challenge. We were not protesting the ROTC or anything like that. We would have done the same exact thing anywhere else.

We do appreciate the fact that you are willing to listen to our perspective and hope that something can be coordinated between us soon.

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Hey Jeff, you want perspective? If you are the guy that actually organized this shameful event, then you should invite Palestinian speakers to talk about their experiences living under Israeli occupation and oppression. Give them the same platform that you gave to their oppressors. Don't expect them to have to sit through the lies and the excuses of those occupation soldiers only to "educate" by asking them a question.

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I did ask for a dialogue more than once. The invitation was refused - I get why, but the fact is I did. Hoping to coordiante something in the near future for the students to better understand what it is like to live in Gaza. Perhaps you could help us with speakers for a future event? That would be great.

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Bravo. It is nice to know that college students around the country are once again taking a real time stand on oppression, and not just on the internet. This comes a day or so after a similar occurrence at UNM. But unlike the silent treatment given here, at UNM slogans were shouted over the speaker, and a few of the older folks (senior citizens) in that audience took umbrage with the demonstrators and almost came to blows over it.
For too long the only narrative heard was that of the Zionists and the Israelis. All dissent was suppressed, whether it be in an open forum such as this, or through the print media, and even published books. Now it has changed and folks are waking up to the reality of what happened. It isn't complicated either. It is quite simple and it is this: YOU STOLE THEIR LAND, THEY WANT IT BACK.
YOU STOLE THEIR LAND, THEY WANT IT BACK.

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Congratulations to these students who stood up for justice and human rights by walking out on an event featuring two members of Israel's military, sponsored by Stand With Us -- a group is dedicated to disseminating zionist propaganda. Unlike members of SWU who rudely disrupted a talk by reknowned Israeli historian Professor Ilan Pappe at CSUN (Northridge, California) a few days ago, these MSU students made themselves heard without raising their voices.

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I applaud the MSU students for taking a stand! You were courageous, acted peacefully, and sent a clear message that we as Americans do not support racism or apartheid in any country in any way, shape or form.

One note: I don't see the need for hostility towards Jeff McDonald in this thread. He was accused of racism, but he posted nothing racist and did not antagonize anyone for taking part in the protest. In fact, he only asked for more information as to what the SAFE students were protesting. Isn't that the point of a demonstration, to raise awareness? You clearly made more people aware. There's no need to respond harshly when they come asking for more information about our cause.

Ali Abunimah

Ali Abunimah's picture

Co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of The Battle for Justice in Palestine, now out from Haymarket Books.

Also wrote One Country: A Bold-Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse. Opinions are mine alone.