The following is a Letter to the Editor submitted to North by Northwestern and does not reflect the views of its editorial board.
First and foremost, UnshackleNU and NUDivest condemn the conflation of Zionism, a political identity, and Judaism, a religious identity. The state of Israel has attempted to conflate both in order to garner support for its apartheid policies. However, Jewish people around the world vehemently oppose this conflation as evidenced by Jewish Voice for Peace, Neturei Karta and countless others.
The solidarity between UnshackleNU and NUDivest is the result of a bond that transcends this campus. There is a reason why both our movements, despite launching a year apart, have called to divest from G4S. There is a reason why over 1,100 Black activists, scholars, artists, students and organizations including Angela Davis and Cornel West signed a statement in solidarity with the Palestinian people. There is a reason why Palestinians, whilst being indiscriminately bombed by Israel in the summer of 2014, expressed their solidarity with Black protestors in Ferguson demonstrating against the murder of Michael Brown with instructions on how to wash tear gas residue from their eyes.
As the U.S. government continues to close and underfund schools in neighborhoods of color, Israel continues to bomb Palestinian schools. Communities of color in the U.S. are constantly under the threat of gentrification whilst Israel continues to demolish Palestinian homes to expand illegal settlements in Palestinian territories. As the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) continue to indiscriminately kill and shoot Palestinians with impunity, police officers in the U.S. are also killing unarmed Black youth without consequences. The cold blooded murders of Laquan McDonald and Hadeel Al-Haslamoun are only two of many examples of the ‘shoot first and ask questions later’ mentality prevalent in the IDF and U.S. police departments. Both were teenagers, shot 16 and 10 times respectively, that posed no threat to the officers. It was not until the Chicago Police Department’s cover up of McDonald’s murder was exposed a year later that Officer Jason Van Dyke was indicted. As of today, Hadeel’s murderer still runs free. Every single one of these atrocities highlight the importance of Black-Palestinian solidarity.
Furthermore, Jewish Ethiopians with Israeli citizenship are treated very similarly to Black people in the U.S., as they face housing discrimination, higher unemployment and poverty rates, lynching and police brutality. Ethiopian Jewish women were also subjected to forced sterilization by the Israeli government upon their arrival. Moreover, the largest immigration detention facility in the world is in Israel, built primarily to detain African refugees. Israeli officials have publicly described African refugees fleeing for their safety as “infiltrators” and “a cancer.” Not to mention the multifaceted oppression that the Afro-Palestinian community faces due to the intersection of their Blackness and Palestinian-ness. It then becomes clear that opposing Israeli apartheid is not only a Palestinian cause but also a Black Feminist cause.
Black-Palestinian solidarity is predicated on the acknowledgement that Israel is a white-supremacist settler-colony whose racism does not end with oppressing Palestinians. The U.S. and Israel’s relationship sheds light on their respective racist structures. The U.S. plays a huge role in oppressing Palestinians by funding Israel’s war crimes to the tune of $3.1 billion per year and unconditionally supporting Israeli apartheid policies despite the outcries of the international community. Likewise, the IDF exports its militarized and racist police tactics to the U.S., training police officers in Chicago, St. Louis, Baltimore and many others. It is not a mere coincidence that those police departments deploy the IDF’s tactics. Hence, UnshackleNU’s particular focus entreats a focus on Israeli apartheid, much to the dismay of some ASG senators.
The amendment proposed by Zionist ASG senators was an attempt to hijack the message of our campaign to suit their own political agenda. When the senators were faced with the reality that G4S profits off of the oppression of the Palestinian people and African refugees seeking asylum in Israel, their response was an attempt to further marginalize the voices of students of color on this campus by shifting the focus away from these specific systems of white supremacy. Our resolution aims to center the voices of students of color on this campus that are affected by the racist Prison Industrial Complex. It is telling that a group of white male senators that have never been to any of our events during our six-week long campaign nor reached out to understand our message took it upon themselves to tell people of color how to fight for their liberation. How can a democratic senate that claims to represent the student body exist when senators vote on a legislation according to their personal agendas?
Moreover, the amendment that was proposed contained seven arbitrarily chosen countries including Mozambique. The authors of the amendment did not provide one shred of evidence that linked G4S’ involvement in those countries to anti-blackness, which is the main focus of our campaign. The laughable inclusion of Mozambique with its 99.66 percent African majority is testament to the fact that those senators, despite their claims, do not care about fighting anti-blackness in the prison industrial complex. Rather, they only care about absolving Israel of their crimes. It is not surprising that the people who spoke in favor of the amendment also spoke against a senate reform bill that aimed to increase diversity in senate.
“I believe that people of color who are incarcerated and made subject to a system that benefits from their oppressions should be liberated,” claimed a Zionist senator. It is morally and logically inconsistent that said senator voted against a resolution to divest from mass incarceration of Black and Brown bodies in the U.S. due to the mention of the oppression of Palestinians, who are “people of color and made subject to a system that benefits from their oppression.” It is very easy for somebody to say that they support the liberation of people of color. However, when people merely verbalize their support, but do not come to any events or reach out to ask how they can help, speak out against a bill that increases the representation of students of color in the student government and oppose divesting from multinational corporations that profit off of the oppression of people of color, the authenticity of their claims should be questioned.
This selective and hollow support of the liberation of people of color is indicative of the larger Liberal Zionist movement. Despite the repeated claims of victimization on this campus, the facts tell a different story. Just as the white-supremacist settler-colonial Israeli state subjects Palestinians to a brutal and illegal occupation, white people at Northwestern and in the U.S. have privileges that are not afforded to people of color. NUDivest and UnshackleNU will continue to amplify the voices of all marginalized students on this campus because we want to challenge the oppressive status quo. UnshackleNU and NUDivest will continue to fight for the liberation of all people with no exceptions because, unlike the Zionist movement, we refuse that our liberation be built on the oppression of others.
Unshackle NU and NUDivest