In a landmark development in the US Palestine solidarity movement, M.E.Ch.A., the largest association of Latin@ youth in the US, voted overwhelmingly to endorse the Palestinian call for boycott, divestment and sanctions. (Latin@ is a gender neutral term for Latino and Latina.)
Today’s announcement carries heavy symbolism, as it is both Palestinian Land Day — commemorating Israel’s murder, injury and mass arrest of Palestinians protesting land confiscation in 1976 — and César Chávez Day, commemorating the Chicano civil rights leader who led boycotts and strikes for the rights of farmworkers.
March 30, 2012 — At the 19th annual national conference of M.E.Ch.A. (Movímíento Estudíantíl Chícan@ de Aztlán), the largest association of Latin@ youth in the US, chapter leaders voted by a landslide decision to endorse the global call for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) on Israel, due to its military occupation and settlement of Palestine.
The announcement that M.E.Ch.A. chapter leaders endorsed BDS comes on the coinciding international observances of “César Chávez Day” and “Land Day,” commemorating ongoing civil rights and anti-colonial struggles for Latin@s and Palestinians. The chapter delegations (including some 600 delegates) met in Phoenix, AZ, last weekend, the site of the very first M.E.Ch.A. conference in 1993.
The local ASU M.E.Ch.A. chapter, who hosted the conference this year, was the first to endorse the BDS call prior to the conference. Before M.E.Ch.A. could endorse BDS at a national level, ASU Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) President, Lina Bearat, attended an ASU M.E.Ch.A meeting to discuss BDS and ask for their endorsement. Without that crucial vote of endorsement and support from ASU M.E.Ch.A. prior to the conference, ASU SJP could not have been able to ask for the endorsement of BDS by the national M.E.Ch.A. ASU SJP was also required to hold a workshop on BDS to educate the national members on the issue. Erin McGough, ASU SJP member, had the opportunity to discuss and hold a workshop on BDS at the national M.E.Ch.A. conference. The University of Arizona SJP collaborated with ASU, in all, on three educational workshops on Palestine given at the conference.
“Palestina 101,” a workshop run by ASU SJP Vice President, Aman Aberra, discussed the history and current situation in Palestine, as well as US involvement and complicity in Israel’s crimes and how the attendees could get involved in supporting justice in Palestine. “Conexiones Concretas/Concrete Connections,” run by Gabriel M Schivone of UofA SJP, discussed cross-border analyses — ranging from both walls to cultural attacks on Palestinian/Latin@ ethnic studies by the US and Israel — and provided prospects for cross-movement building between both struggles. Member representatives also distributed “A Plea from a Mexican-Palestinian and Chicano-Jew to National M.E.Ch.A.,” by Yasmine A. Moreno Yatim and Schivone, UofA SJP coordinators, urging the conference to adopt BDS.
Beyond ASU and UofA, some of the schools where M.E.Ch.A.s and Latin@ groups have ongoing cross-movement relationships with SJPs and Palestine solidarity groups include The Evergreen State College, University of New Mexico, Brown University, University of Illinois - Chicago, and UCLA.
The decades-old legacy of M.E.Ch.A. stretches back to the late 1960s US Civil Rights Movement. M.E.Ch.A. has traditionally supported intertwining struggles such as opposing police brutality and the US war on Vietnam.
This year, Land Day marks the 36th anniversary of the massacre by Israeli soldiers killing unarmed Palestinians citizens of Israel whom protested the illegal expropriation of Palestinian land. Like his Palestinian counterparts, Chicano civil rights leader, César Chávez, led boycotts and strikes for the rights of farmworkers — including the “Salad Bowl Strike,” the largest farmworker strike in US history — that inspired waves of social movements in the US.
In July 2005, more than 170 Palestinian civil society organizations created the BDS call, a year after the historic ruling by the United Nation’s International Court of Justice condemning Israel’s illegal apartheid wall and reminding the international community of its obligation to pressure Israel to end its prolonged occupation and illegal settlement of Palestinian lands. Together, these civil societies — from Arizona to Palestine — are working towards one goal of fighting oppression and resisting everyday injustice.