Thursday, October 22, 2015

Defend Our Dissent: Preserving Palestinian rights activism on campus

On the walls of a central building on my university campus, displayed prominently and with pride, is a historic image of student activists boldly confronting university administration over the school’s complicity in the larger project of U.S. support for the violence and injustice of apartheid South Africa. Those admirable students, likely reprimanded in their own time, today benefit a school that builds its image on the incredible idealism and activism of its students, and a society that has built a better future on the blood, sweat, and tears of ordinary people surviving, thriving, and agitating against an unjust status quo.

Over the last decade, the movement for Palestinian freedom and equality in opposition to continuing illegal settlement and military occupation, devastating assaults on Gaza, and a profoundly unequal political system has increasingly become the focus of coalitional social justice work, especially on college campuses. Like prior movements fighting a status quo of structural violence, this movement faces heavy-handed repression designed to silence marginalized voices and stifle progressive ideas that might chart the path to a better tomorrow. Two recently released reports, one by Jewish Voice for Peace and the other by Palestine Legal and the Center for Constitutional Rights, document this widespread and systematic suppression.