No government is more crucial – financially or diplomatically – in enabling Israel’s crimes and shielding it from international accountability than the United States, which means no one in the global community has a greater moral stake in ending Israeli apartheid than we do as Americans.
According to United Nations Security Council Resolution 446, “the policy and practices of Israel in establishing settlements in the Palestinian and other Arab territories occupied since 1967 have no legal validity and constitute a serious obstruction to achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East.”
New York University is heavily invested in companies that profit from (and make possible) the occupation, which means we as NYU students have an obligation to demand our university divest from those companies. To name five:
- Caterpillar sells bulldozers to the Israeli government, which are then weaponized and used to demolish Palestinian homes and uproot olive trees.
- Northrop Grumman produces helicopters and missiles the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) use to attack Palestinian and Lebanese civilians and destroy basic infrastructure.
- Motorola develops motion-detecting “virtual fences” used to annex parts of the West Bank and keep Palestinians out of the settlements (all of which are Jewish-only).
- Veolia operates segregated buses exclusively for Israeli settlers, and is working on a light rail project connecting Jerusalem with the surrounding settlements.
- Elbit Systems manufactures armed drones that target civilians in the West Bank and Gaza.
Wednesday night, New York University Students for Justice in Palestine (NYU SJP) called attention to Israel’s illegal demolitions of some 27,000 Palestinian homes by distributing over 2000 mock eviction notices at two campus residence halls. You may have heard or read that our action targeted Jewish students. This isn’t so.
The flyers, which were clearly marked as fake, were slipped under every door on every floor of the Palladium and Lafayette dormitories. The accusation that Jewish students were targeted – which made for sensationalistic headlines in the National Review, New York Post and other right-wing and mainstream outlets – stems from a blog post by a member of the pro-Israel lobbying group AIPAC’s NYU student affiliate, TorchPAC.
In that post, which calls me out by name, Laura Adkins (whom I recently debated for the Washington Square News) claims that SJP chose “to target Jewish students (or at the very least, a dorm brimming with Jewish students)”. Her only “evidence” is the existence of a Shabbat elevator in Palladium, which she attributes to the residence hall’s disproportionately large Jewish presence.
As we clarify in our statement, published Thursday the 24th, SJP distributed notices not only at Palladium, but at Lafayette as well. They are two of the largest dorms on campus, and were chosen because they were the most accessible to our membership. The charge of anti-Semitism was rebuked publicly by NYU spokesperson John Beckman, who explained in an email that,
we don’t believe there is perception of [Palladium and Lafayette] as being home to a higher percentage of Jewish students (the presence of a Sabbath elevator in one of them to serve Jewish students is the result of a stairway that empties to the street and cannot be entered through the lobby behind the security desk, not because of a particularly large presence of Jewish students in that building)….
Basically, Palladium has this elevator to allow practicing Orthodox Jews to live there. It does not reflect the demographics of the residence hall.
NYU SJP has many Jewish members, all of whom supported the action. They reject the premise that criticism of Israeli policy is anti-Jewish. They reject the Zionist project of an ethnically discriminatory state that privileges Jews at the expense of an indigenous population, and they find the equation of being Jewish and being a Zionist deeply offensive.
Adkins also claims that SJP has financial ties to Hamas, citing an article which purports to uncover SJP’s link to the organization. In fact, NYU SJP has no financial or ideological ties to any political party. As per NYU policy, NYU SJP is funded exclusively by NYU’s All-Square Student Budget Allocation Committee (ASSBAC). This charge was apparently so ludicrous that it was ignored by the same news outlets who so readily parroted her accusation that Jewish students were targeted.
That accusation, on the other hand, has served as a rhetorical bludgeon for those seeking to muzzle Palestine solidarity activism on campus. Brooklyn Assemblyperson Dov Hikind, who led the charge to censor Brooklyn College’s BDS event last year, published a statement condemning SJP’s action as “racially motivated” and “pure hate” – an ironic charge, coming from a longtime member of the Jewish Defense League, which the US government lists as a “violent extremist Jewish organization.” Shamelessly, Hikind demands that NYU “immediately and publicly take action against those who perpetrated this act of intimidation and harassment.”
Attacks like Hikind’s are, at worst, an act of political repression, and at best a distraction from the issues we raised by carrying out this action. SJP hasn’t shut down dialogue – we’ve opened up a space for it. Our intervention has led to more discussion of the Palestinian perspective on campus than ever before.
You can stand with us by signing our petition of support. NYU SJP will continue to shed light on the plight of Palestinians and help consign Israel’s archaic policies to the dustbin of history. We hope you’ll join us.
Kumars Salehi is an MA student in Cinema Studies and a member of NYU SJP. You can read more of his work on his personal blog.