Event footage and original event announcements can be found below.
Over one hundred people attended two separate events as part of SJP’s Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW). In addition, forty-one individuals volunteered for NYU-SJP’s burgeoning campaign to support divesting NYU from corporations complicit in Israeli human rights abuses. 119 NYU faculty have thusfar called for divestment from such corporations. More than one hundred individuals signed up to become NYU-SJP members and supporters. The events also raised funds for the Palestinian Children’s Welfare Fund. The events focused on the periodic massacres that Israel has carried out in Gaza, and the parallels between Israeli oppression and American racism against Africans.
Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW) is an international series of events that seeks to raise awareness about Israel’s apartheid policies towards the Palestinians and to build support for the growing Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign.
Mowing the Lawn
On 25 March, reporter Joe Catron and NYU Graduate Student Jehad Abusalim presented “Mowing the Lawn: Understanding Israeli Violence in Gaza.” Catron, who lived as a journalist and an activist in Gaza for three and a half years, discussed various media myths regarding Palestine and various aspects of Israel’s atrocities in the Gaza Strip in 2012 and 2014, when he was there. Catron also showcased parts of a documentary he had assisted in preparing about Israel’s attack on a Gaza hospital.
Abusalim, a Palestinian refugee who grew up in Gaza, presented the history and process of concentrating expelled Palestinian refugees in Gaza. 80% of the Palestinian population in Gaza are refugees from present-day Israel. Israel’s process of concentrating Palestinians in the Strip, alongside its historic campaign of indiscriminately bombarding the Gaza Strip periodically over sixty years, has created the largest human prison in existence.
Abusalim also discussed the horrors of having three close friends die during Israel’s bombing campaign in July 2014, which killed 2100 mostly civilians; and being forced to call his family in Gaza every day for fifty days during the summer to see if they were still alive.
Most human rights monitors concluded that Israel perpetrated a number of war crimes during this campaign, including deliberately targeting civilians, infrastructure, medical facilities and shelters. Months later, Gaza is still under a blockade, restricting reconstruction. People in Gaza continue to die from the lingering effects of the war campaign. Israeli military advisors have referred to the process of regularly bombing Gaza as “mowing the lawn”.
From Ferguson to Palestine
On 26 March, community activist Cherrell Brown, Lehman College Professor of Robyn Spencer, and NYU Graduate Student in History Hazem Jamjoun, discussed the parallels of oppression between Ferguson and Palestine.
Spencer and Brown, both African-Americans, recently visited Palestine in a gesture of solidarity. The speakers emphasized the close ties between American police and Israeli military, and noticed striking parallels between their own experiences and those of Palestinians. Hazem Jamjoum, a Palestinian refugee, is not able to return to Palestine due to Israel’s refusal to allow Palestinians to return.
The St. Louis County Police Department that killed Michael Brown, placed Ferguson under siege, and sparked a nationwide movement against racism and police brutality, trained closely with the Israeli military. Over 9,000 American officials, including police, border guards, and military, have trained closely with the Israeli military. This collaboration has ranged from monitoring suspect ethnic demographics to domestic counterinsurgency and crowd control.
“The most heart-breaking place on this trip [to Palestine] was Hebron,” remarked Brown. Hebron, a Palestinian city in the West Bank, is being colonized by Israeli settlers and remains under Israeli military rule. Brown expressed her outrage that Israeli soldiers had installed checkpoints in Hebron to control the movement of Palestinians as opposed to the settlers who continue to engage in violence against Hebron’s Palestinian population with impunity.
“Palestinians have to go through a checkpoint to go their own place of worship [while] Israeli soldiers were running around with assault weapons. It reminded me of how when I was in Ferguson, the National Guard came in and put us through checkpoints…like in Ferguson, they are afraid of how people will respond to their oppressors…we were being collectively punished because the police had shot Mike Brown, just as Hebron is experiencing collective punishment for what their oppressors have done to them.”
Jamjoum, whose presentation focused on the colonial organization of space in Palestine, emphasized the history of land dispossession and the process of concentrating Palestinians in Gaza.
Many defenders of the State of Israel have argued that the presence of Palestinian citizens of Israel — descendants of the minority of Palestinians who were not expelled by Israel in 1948 — constitutes diversity and equality. Jamjoum explained that this claim was spurious, in that Israel has used military force and the 1965 Planning and Construction Law to concentrate even Palestinian citizens of Israel into smaller and smaller plots of land. “As soon as this law was passed, hundreds of Palestinian villages in Israel became illegal and any construction in these villages is automatically illegal…and I’m talking about Israeli citizens.” remarked Jamjoum.
Jamjoum continued that these policies were then extended to Israel’s policies of controlling space and colonizing land in the Palestinian West Bank, which remains under Israeli military occupation. The majority of Palestinians either live in exile or under military rule. Jamjoum finished by emphasizing that such policies of control of space are ubiquitous across colonial and settler regimes, including in the United States.
“On the one hand it felt very foreign, and on the other hand it felt very familiar. I saw people engaging the act of self-determination and self-preservation,” said Professor Robyn Spencer.
“Our oppressors are literally learning from each other,” remarked Cherrell Brown. We know St. Louis police are being trained by Israeli soldiers. They are using the same weaponry, as some of the tear gas being used in Ferguson is from Israel. And so we must work together, and share our stories, and our collective resistance.” Brown specifically called for boycotts against companies that provide military services to Israel, such as G4S.
“Showing up for each other is showing up for ourselves,” argues Spencer. “It is not an act of charity”.
Speakers also emphasized Israel’s systematic racism toward African refugees, whom the Israeli government deems “infiltrators” and a “cultural threat to Israel”. All speakers also emphasized the necessity of recognizing the history American settler-colonialism against indigenous peoples in the United States, including Manhattan.