Jul 18

A Letter from SUPER UW to the University of Washington Community

Palestinians gather around the remains of a Gaza City house which was destroyed in an Israeli air strike, 14 July. (Ashraf Amra / APA images)

Palestinians gather around the remains of a Gaza City house which was destroyed in an Israeli air strike, 14 July. (Ashraf Amra / APA images)

Dear UW students, alumni, faculty and staff,

On the 8th of July 2014, Israel launched a military offensive on Gaza that was designated “Operation Protective Edge.” On the 17th of July, Israel started its ground invasion of the Gaza strip that will surely lead to further death and destruction. This ongoing assault on Gaza, a heavily populated area with 1.8 million living in an area of 139 sq miles (smaller than the city of Seattle), has lead so far to the death of 294 Palestinians, 58 of them under the age of 16 and 30 women according to al-Akhbar newspaper. A UN report, states that 4 out every 5 Palestinians killed are civilians.

Reports so far also say that one Israeli volunteer was killed in Sderot and one soldier, bringing the total number of Israeli fatalities to 2. We, SUPER UW, stress the need to address the root cause behind this violence, the Israeli Occupation of Palestine and the complete disregard for the rights and lives of the Palestinian people.

This latest bombardment of Gaza touches the UW community directly as one of UWs students (Laila AbuDahi) is currently trapped in Gaza with no ability travel to UW to attend school in the fall. We mourn all those who have died, and we reaffirm that Palestinians and Israelis deserve security, justice, and equality. As students we identify perhaps most with the 18 Palestinian students who were killed before they learned the results of their 12th grade final exams that would have given them the opportunity to attend University. We mourn their lost potential, hopes and dreams.

In response to the call from civil society organizations in Gaza, we also reaffirm the need now more than ever, to Boycott, Divest and Sanction the state of Israel and those who profit from Occupation until the Israeli government complies with International law and universal values of decency by, ending the occupation, ensuring equal rights for all who live in Palestine/Israel as well as the right of return of Palestinian refugees.

The Boycott National committee lists these 9 ways we can support Gaza through BDS

http://www.bdsmovement.net/get-involved

http://electronicintifada.net/content/urgent-call-gaza-civil-society-act-now/13558

This non-violent movement is one way to send a message to Israel that it can no longer break international law with impunity and ignore the charters of the very organization that created it in 1948.

Please visit the link below for an updated list of the names of those who have been lost:
http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2014/07/gaza-under-seige-naming-dead-2014710105846549528.html

Apr 28

Defending Apartheid – From 1968 to Present

daily-masthead1The Daily newspaper at the University of Washington recently ran an editorial titled “Why Israel?: The problems with ASUW Resolution 20-39.” In this article, Nathan Taft makes two arguments against a resolution brought before the Associated Students of the University of Washington which urges UW to divest from companies profiting from the Israeli government’s human rights abuses.

The first is that Israel’s innovations in science more than make up for the destructive colonial project which the Israeli government has spent the last half century pursuing.

Taft writes,

“The blind hatred that some of the world bears for Israel, the world’s only Jewish state, is a deeply troubling conundrum. There are undoubtedly issues with certain policies of Israel’s government and particular facets of its society — such as the building of settlements — and these must be addressed. But this is only a small part of a much more complicated conflict that stretches back more than 2,000 years, and the solution lies not in misleading propaganda but in fair and open dialogue.

The truth is, the overwhelming majority of what Israel and its people contribute to the world is positive. This tiny nation publishes nearly ten times more scientific papers than its share of the world’s population and has more Nobel Prize winners than all the other countries in the Middle East put together. Israeli technological innovations brought us drip irrigation that revolutionized agriculture worldwide, pill-sized cameras that can be swallowed to diagnose internal conditions, portable flash drives, and instant messaging, to name just a few.”

Taft’s interpretation of the benefits and costs of the occupation completely silences the experiences of the Palestinian people. This familiar ends justify the means argument has long been used to justify colonial and imperial projects, especially those of western powers. In fact, on April 4th, 1968 the Daily published an opinion piece co-authored by journalists Richard Sanders and Larry Parr with strikingly similar arguments attempting to justify South African Apartheid.

In this passage, Sanders and Parr personify “the Facts” in a mock account of a court room proceeding; South Africa is standing trail, and “the Facts” take the stand:

Apartheid1Sanders and Parr argued similarly that UW students in 1968 simply had a “blind hatred” for South Africa, without the “nuanced” understanding of all the “good” apartheid was doing. The paternalistic position is clear: the benevolent occupier was simply not properly understood by the ungrateful occupied.

The scone argument Taft outlines is also familiar. Why focus on Israel? The main point of this argument is that R-20-39 singles out Israel, while ignoring the crimes of surrounding countries. As though focusing on fighting against one oppression means that you are ignoring others. He states,

“Despite this, ASUW Resolution 20-39, entitled “A Resolution to Divest from Companies Profiting from Violations of International Law and Human Rights,” explicitly targets Israel and Israel alone. Not Russia, with its anti-gay laws and illegal annexation of Ukrainian and Georgian territory. Not Saudi Arabia, where women are not allowed in public without a male companion and are treated as second class citizens. Not even Syria, where the government has massacred more than 100,000 of its own civilians. No, the Resolution targets only the Jewish of the state of Israel.

The argument for divestment from countries that practice clear-cut and straightforward violations of human rights is a legitimate one, but this resolution does not do that. There are many countries that do far more harm — and contribute far less good — than Israel, and they are not even mentioned, much less targeted by R-20-39.”

This statement suggests that Taft has likely not read the divestment bill R-20-39, which explicitly focuses on companies profiting from Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine and not Israel itself, nor Israeli citizens. This defense of apartheid is also shared by Sanders and Parr, who attempt to distract from the issue being discussed by pointing the finger at other countries in the region. This passage references some of the exchange during an event on UW campus in 1968.

Apartheid2

Perhaps the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, which helped draw international attention to the barbaric and inhumane treatment of South Africans was misplaced. Perhaps the Black Student Union, who started organizing against South African apartheid as early as 1968, were not justified in doing so as long as any other oppression in the world persisted. Perhaps, as Sanders and Parr argue, what we really needed was a “Good Neighbor policy,” with the South African government.

uwoutUnfortunately for Sanders, Parr and Taft, history has taught us something quite different. In 1989, after over 20 years of dedicated organizing by students at UW, the University of Washington finally divested from South Africa, in response to the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. Today we are called upon by 171 Palestinian civil society organizations to engage in a similar nonviolent tactic to help bring about the end of Israeli apartheid. Pursuing divestment in companies who profit from the occupation, which R-20-39 does, is one way students at the UW have chosen to recognize that call. Not only does this resolution answer a call put out by Palestinians seeking an end to a decades long occupation, it helps create a space for an actual dialogue and discussion around Israel’s human rights abuses which goes beyond the oversimplified and inadequate AIPAC and StandWithUs talking points which Taft was so quick to regurgitate.

Students of conscience should vote yes on R-20-39. Defending apartheid today is no different from defending apartheid in 1968. As UW students we can do better. We must do better.

Find out more about #DawgsDivest, sign our petition in support, and read the letters to ASUW senators supporting R-20-39 which have come to us from all around the world at www.superuw.org/dawgsdivest

Feb 26

Intertwining Borders: SUPER UW and MEChA de UW Collaboration for Israeli Apartheid Week

IAW

Photograph by Aditya Ganapathiraju

SUPER UW and MEChA de UW commemorate Israeli Apartheid Week together this year. We have built a wall to make visible the intertwining struggles for justice and liberation in the Americas and in Palestine. SUPER & MEChA invite you to visit our display in the Quad this week.

FEBRUARY 25 – 28, ALL DAY

We understand Israeli Apartheid as one element of a global system of economic and military domination, to this end we stand in solidarity with all oppressed groups around the world, in particular, indigenous communities struggling under settler colonialism, exploitation, and displacement.

In the words of Nelson Mandela, “we know too well our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.” We know, specifically, that the struggle for a truly just immigration policy in North America is intimately entangled with the Palestinian struggle.

Some of the companies designing, maintaining, and profiting from the U.S./Mexico border fence are also profiteering from the illegal construction of the Apartheid wall in Palestine: Caterpillar, Israeli corporation Elbit, and Boeing to name a few.

We stand in solidarity with people across the world affected by borders, including the Palestinian and Mexican people. This wall seeks to visually represent the violence of and resistance to histories of settler colonialism, militarism, and Apartheid.

Check out more photos by from the display here!

 

Jan 17

Boycotts and Academic Freedom

asalogo

In December, the American Studies Association membership voted by a 2:1 margin to endorse the boycott of Israeli academic institutions, which has sparked debates about academic freedom and the place of Boycott in higher education institutions.  Critics have claimed that boycotting Israeli academic institutions violates the free exchange of ideas. Left out is the question:  why is the Israeli state allowed to prevent the academic freedom of Palestinian Academic institutions with very little criticism or protest from American Academic institutions?  Opponents claim that it singles out Israel unfairly, when there are many nations around the world who likewise commit crimes against humanity, occupy and expropriate others’ land, severely restrict freedom of movement and access to education.  But a boycott is not a general expression of moral disapproval. It is a last resort that targets a state or other institution because of the ongoing and remediable nature of the harm that it is doing. Boycotting Israeli institutions is also a way to clearly withdraw the implicit support given by keeping silent when human rights and academic freedom is restricted by those institutions.  Finally, boycott is undertaken only when those who are the victims of injustice ask us to do so, as it is they who risk bearing the brunt of its effects. The ASA’s resolution responds to the call of over 170 Palestinian civil society organizations for a global boycott of Israeli academic institutions, whose complicity with the ongoing occupation of Palestine is documented.

-Lubna Alzaroo, English Graduate Student
-Caitlin Palo, English Graduate Student

Originally published in the UW Daily – Friday, Jan. 17th, 2014

Apr 19

After the event: Professor Nikhil Singh and Jack O’Dell

 

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Thank you to everyone who came to last night’s event, “Educators Cannot Stay Silent: U.S. Universities & Palestine.” Professor Singh gave a description of his travels in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and elaborated on the framework of boycott, divestment, and sanctions as called for by Palestinian Civil Society. In an exciting surprise development, we heard from Jack O’Dell, notable leader in the civil rights struggle of the US. O’Dell related his experiences visiting Palestinian refugee camps in 1979, and his observations of the US-Israeli relationship since 1948. A video of the event is online in the videos section.

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Jan 17

After the Event: Five Broken Cameras & Iyad Burnat

-Photo by Aditya Ganapathiraju

Emad Burnat’s road to filmmaking can be described as the starting when he bought his first camera with the birth of his fourth son.  Burnat wanted to film Gibrael’s childhood growing up in Bil’in–a village outside of Ramallah in the West Bank.  But this is not just a home video that happens to be set in an occupied territory—it is a document of occupied life. Some of Gibrael’s first words are jesh—“soldier”, and “wall.”  He doesn’t kick rocks on walks with his father and brother, but empty teargas canisters. Documenting his son’s life, Burnat also films friends and family as they protest the encroaching separation wall being built on Bi’lin’s land with weekly marches, sit-ins, the building of an outpost shelter in the path of the wall.  The intensity of the IDF’s aggression increases year by year, as curfews are imposed, soldiers enter homes at night,  new areas are designated “closed military zones,” and Palestinian, Israeli, and international protesters are shot.  And year by year, Burnat’s cameras are broken as he documents his son growing up and his village shrinking.

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Jan 12

Following Criticism of its Involvement in Israeli Occupation, Veolia Withdraws from California Water Contract Bidding

In an impressive victory for the American BDS movement, Veolia Water North America withdrew as a prospective bidder for a California water contract totaling $325 million. The Davis Committee of Palestinian Rights (DCPR), with the help of the citizens of Yolo County, effectively campaigned against Veolia’s participation in the bidding process, pointing to Veolia’s profiteering from Israeli occupation and abuse of Palestinian human rights.

Veolia’s complicity with Israel’s war crimes and violations of international law has made it a prime target for international BDS activists. It won the contract to build and maintain the Jerusalem Light Rail project, which aims at separating Jerusalem from the West Bank. Additionally, Veolia operates bus routes for Israeli settlers, allowing them to shuttle between Israeli cities and illegal settlements in the West Bank. Over the last decade, Palestinians and international human rights activists have contested Veolia’s operation of the Tovlan Landfill in the occupied Jordan Valley, built upon stolen Palestinian land.

Importantly, this victory in California represents one in a chain of high-profile losses suffered by Veolia as a result of the BDS Campaign. In London, the No2 Veolia Action Group led a well-organized campaign that saw Veolia withdraw from a £4.7bn contract to provide waste management to seven London boroughs. The Friends Fiduciary Corporation also divested from Veolia following requests by Quakers concerned about the plight of Palestinians under occupation.

SUPER UW is encouraged by the victory in California and hopes we can work as a community to encourage similar victories at the University of Washington and beyond.

Nov 12

From Jim Crow to Israeli Apartheid – Featuring Aaron Dixon

SUPER UW was excited to share last evening with both the ISO and UW’s African Student Association hosting long-time Seattle activists and freedom fighters Aaron Dixon, Gerald Lenoir, and Jesse Hagopian. All three recently returned from the African Heritage Delegation to Palestine spoke not only of that recent experience but of the important history of African American solidarity with the Palestinian struggle from SNCC in the early 1960s to the Black Panther Party. “Zionism in Palestine and racism in America” they reminded us share “U.S. Imperialism in common.”

“Jim Crow, Apartheid, are alive and well in Palestine,” Gerald, one of the leaders of Seattle’s anti-South African-Apartheid movement, declared. Drawing on his history of solidarity organizing he remembered “we were calling for boycott, divestment, and sanctions of South Africa,” he went on “I am proud to say I was part of that movement and proud to be a part of the current BDS movement.” Recalling that anti-Apartheid movement spanning the 1950s to the 1980s, Gerald described boycotts of banks invested in South Africa as well as petitioning the UW board of regents to divest university funds from South African companies profiting from Apartheid. “We know that with persistence and organizing BDS can bring a country to its knees,” he concluded.

This work will not be without challenges, and Jesse highlighted the important role of people of color in the Palestine Solidarity movement. In his opening remarks he warned against the new strategy of “blackwashing” taking its place with “pinkwashing” and “greenwashing” as ways to obscure the bloody reality of Israeli occupation by positioning prominent African American leaders as supporters of Israel.

Aaron Dixon, the founder of Seattle’s Panther Party, described their visit to Palestine in damning terms. He witnessed, he said, a “diabolical” situation as well as the strength of the Palestinian people. “They don’t need our sympathy, they know they’re going to win.” Dixon reminded us that U.S. tax dollars fund the military technology used against Palestinians. He was struck, he added, by the parallels not only between the Palestinian struggle and the Civil Rights era in the United States, but our current reality of mass incarceration and stop and frisk policies, “our struggle is so connected, its our empire at work” here and there. He ended, “it’s going to be a fiercer fight than even we had for South African freedom,” he urged us to join the fight.

Video and Photographs of the event are posted below.

 

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