Georgetown Students for Justice in Palestine is committed to raising awareness about the Palestinian cause through the framework of human rights and social justice. We seek to shed light on often underreported and unrecognized aspects of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as well as to challenge misinformation and misunderstandings. March 14 marked the beginning of our annual observance of Israeli Apartheid Week, a climax of our Palestine solidarity work on campus.
IAW is a global chorus of support for ending the occupation of Palestinian territory, protecting Palestinian refugees’ right to return to their homes and properties, as stipulated in UN Resolution 194, raising awareness about targeted boycotts, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) and denouncing injustice, inequality, and the suppression of Palestinian rights.
This year, our event flyers were torn down from designated free speech zones within hours of posting and our mock wall in the ICC Galleria was heavily vandalized. These occurrences are not new and have happened in years past, but not to this degree. After discussing the defacement of our mock wall within our organization as well as with members of other students groups and listening to their groups’ statements, we decided to refrain from hiding the mischaracterizations, false information and spiteful comments written on our mock wall for a few reasons. First, although those who vandalized our display sought to misconstrue or muzzle our free speech and expression, we refuse to respond in-kind, as we feel that in-person communication is a more constructive means of exchanging ideas. We are also continuing to work with Georgetown University to ensure that the individuals responsible for the vandalism are held accountable for their denigration of our display. Lastly, the frantic behavior of those who vandalized our materials allows the Georgetown community to witness the means and the lengths to which some will go to obscure truth, thwart our organization’s mission and silence the Palestinian narrative.
Every year, SJP is targeted with fierce, repetitive criticism for participating in IAW. One criticism, which was not only scrawled on our mock wall but also echoed in a statement issued by the Georgetown Israel Alliance, is that IAW is “anti-Israel” and attempts to unfairly single out and “delegitimize Israel.” While we welcome constructive conversations, these tired criticisms mischaracterize our organization and distract from raising awareness about Israeli apartheid. We intend to call out Israeli policies that promote the unequal treatment of Palestinians and marginalized minorities. One would think that raising awareness about unjust, discriminatory treatment and violations of international law should not reasonably open SJP or IAW to incrimination and censure. An accurate conclusion is that SJP and participants in this international week of activism are opposed to Israel’s illegal occupation and colonial structures and policies. However, exempting Israel from scrutiny, which is exemplified by the widespread, hardline orthodoxy of unconditional support for Israel in Congress and in American public discourse, is unfairly singling out Israel.
SJP is also frequently charged as being obstinately opposed to dialogue and engaging with alternative viewpoints. This is chiefly because of our group’s policy against normalization. Normalization, as defined by the BDS National Committee in a statement written by Palestinian Youth Against Normalization, means “participating in any project, initiative or activity whether locally or internationally, that is designed to bring together — whether directly or indirectly — Palestinian and/or Arab youth with Israelis — whether individuals or institutions — and is not explicitly designed to resist or expose the occupation and all forms of discrimination and oppression inflicted upon the Palestinian people.” We have decided to join the international movements for justice in Palestine that refuse to engage in merely symbolic or feel-good dialogue. Such symbolic engagement creates a facade of equality between the powerful occupier and the oppressed Palestinians.
We hope that our participation in Israeli Apartheid Week through our mock wall and series of events was illuminating and thought-provoking. We also hope that the Georgetown community has gained a better understanding of our organization’s goals and aims, and we implore the university to actively protect and promote the freedom for student groups to express diverse perspectives and positions on the important issues of our time. Going forward, we are determined to continue working in solidarity toward a just solution, one that unapologetically recognizes the history and continuation of racism, colonialism, occupation, dispossession and massacre that Palestinians have been subjected to for far too long. We hope you will join us.
Matt Martin is a senior in the college and Eman Abdelfadeel is a junior in the College. They are members of Students for Justice in Palestine.
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