Students aim to set long-term vision for Palestine activism

Student activists will converge this weekend in Fairfax, Virginia, for the annual National Students for Justice in Palestine conference.

Students say they will meet to “strategize for the long term.”

National SJP, which coordinates with more than 160 chapters, stated that the student Palestine solidarity movement “is at a pivotal point” as activists are being “confronted with forms of repression both old and new.”

Students and faculty involved in campus solidarity organizing face smear campaigns and efforts to conflate criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism, while state and federal lawmakers aim to stamp out the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.

Campus repression

At some universities, administrators are joining these attempts to suppress speech on Palestine.

Across the US, however, students have pushed back and succeeded in having their rights to free speech and political organizing affirmed.

The Electronic Intifada spoke to two representatives of National Students for Justice in Palestine. Both are pupils at universities whose student governments have recently passed resolutions in support of divestment from companies that profit from Israel’s violations of Palestinian rights.

“Part of what we want to work on this year … is to pressure the university to materially divest,” said Summer Al-Saleh of the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Al-Saleh added that beyond boycott and divestment campaigns, student activists want to create a space on campus “where we aren’t constantly having to push against or respond to Zionist organizations … [where] instead of us having to defend ourselves against the university and repression, we are able to have a base of support.”

“National conversation”

Students organizing under the growing SJP structure are looking forward to having a “national conversation” during the three-day conference, said Malcolm Lizzappi of Stanford University.

That conversation, he added, will address the needs of SJP chapters across the country as student activists look toward another productive and challenging year.

Listen to the interview with Al-Saleh and Lizzappi via the media player above.

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Nora Barrows-Friedman

Nora Barrows-Friedman's picture

Nora Barrows-Friedman is a staff writer and associate editor at The Electronic Intifada, and is the author of In Our Power: US Students Organize for Justice in Palestine (Just World Books, 2014).