“My grandfather died with his gaze fixed on a land imprisoned behind a fence. A land whose skin they had changed from wheat, sesame, maize, watermelons, and honeydews to tough apples. My grandfather died counting sunsets, seasons, and heartbeats on the fingers of his withered hands. He dropped like a fruit forbidden a branch to lean its age against. They destroyed his heart.”
- Mahmoud Darwish
Athens for Justice in Palestine and Christians United for Palestine are student-led, community-wide advocacy groups that promote discourse surrounding the entrenched inequality of and human rights violations perpetrated against Palestinians in the Occupied West Bank and Gaza, and those Palestinian citizens of Israel. AJP is one of 100+ Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) chapters spread across the nation, constituting a growing grassroots movement on college campuses dedicated to the struggle against Zionism, a settler-colonialist ideology which promotes the mass immigration of world Jewry, regardless of origin, to historic Palestine in order to create and systematically maintain a Jewish-majority state, at the expense of indigenous, non-Jewish Palestinians.
Let me speak on the logistics of our organizational capabilities. As a genuine grassroots movement, our funding is limited and is primarily driven by crowdsourcing and bake sales and the like, much of which is supported by the contributions of our own executive board members. Israeli Apartheid Week, our annual event which seeks to shed light on Israel’s consistent campaign of human rights violations, ethnic cleansing, and apartheid, took place during the week of April 4th earlier this year, and was entirely the result of our own work created by our own hands and promoted by our own voices. Immediately following our announcement of Israeli Apartheid Week, Dawgs for Israel and Students Supporting Israel at UGA declared “Israeli Peace Week” alongside it. As with the years prior, this was a calculated and coordinated attempt to overshadow our advocacy for the Palestinian people whitewashing Israel's crimes against humanity, and we were not surprised, nor were we impressed, nor were we dismayed.
The cognitive dissonance of the Pro-Israel advocacy groups on campus is exemplified here, failing to maintain their proclaimed image of “grassroots” organizations led by simple students. Instead, they are able to mobilize within a fortnight so as to import a foreign camel, bulks of food, and merchandise. Such a fantastic display/visage of the supposed cultural, sociopolitical, and technological “achievements” of Israel is the culmination of monetary support from incredibly powerful organizations, such as “StandWithUs”, with a budget of over $8 million as of 2014, Christians United for Israel, whose President alone, Pastor John Hagee, has a net worth of approximately $5 million, and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which remains one of the nation’s most powerful and most influential lobbying agencies. Thus, Zionism, having been fortified by Western colonial support since its conception, continues to rely on big money to falsify the historical narrative, which has consistently proven that Jewish statehood in Palestine is predicated on the obliteration of the Palestinian people, their livelihoods, and their culture, as well as the erasure of their suffering, and the direct collaboration between campus organizations such as “Dawgs for Israel” and “StandWithUs” is evidence of the continuation of Palestinian ethnic cleansing. Our frustration with such a falsified designation is compounded by the accusations leveled against us by these Pro-Israel organizations, as well as their own disingenuousness. In an article released this past Spring, members of these organizations accused Athens for Justice in Palestine and their allies of often blockading their tables and “yelling at them”, claiming that our apparent toxicity and vitriol caused several students at an event hosted by IDF soldiers to cry. An executive board member of “Dawgs for Israel” went on to accuse us, on a public forum, of performing the Nazi salute during that same event. Regardless of the fact that this abhorrent libel, an entirely false accusation, was edited out in a later post, the fact remains that a member of the highest tier of this campus organization was, to such an extent, enamored by the idea that our opposition to Israel’s campaign of brutalization and vilification of an entire peoples is synonymous with antisemitism. This speaks to the well-known campaign of censorship perpetrated and sustained by Pro-Israel organizations on college campuses across America, which seeks to maintain a cognitive dissonance easily punctured by truth-telling.
Let’s talk about “dialogue”. What does the term necessitate? Do we do it over some tea or coffee? What is Zionist dialogue? Zionist dialogue is a caged Persian camel in the middle of campus. Zionist dialogue is a gross display of orientalism, its proponents sheltered by artificial Bedouin tents in Tate Plaza, conveniently forgetting the continued demolition of the Bedouin village of al-Araqib (100+ times). Zionist dialogue is a spread of hummus and falafel. Zionist dialogue is attending general body meetings of the opposing advocacy/human rights groups and remaining seated in the back, falsifying your identity on sign-in forms and seeking to intimidate them by scribbling notes and chuckling with every mention of the systematic discrimination of indigenous peoples. Zionist dialogue is consuming someone’s food as they plead for morsels, telling them that they should stop raising their voice in frustration as you continue to starve them. Zionist dialogue is smothering Palestinian mothers as they wail over the bodies of their children, having been executed for slinging a rock at a US-backed Goliath. This is Pro-Israel dialogue. True dialogue is not "reasoning" with members of these organizations that explicitly refuse to recognize the illegality of settlements in the (internationally-recognized) Occupied West Bank. True dialogue is not conversing with proponents of a population transfer who proclaim that the only viable solution to the suffering of the Palestinian people is for them to wallow in squalor, hopeless for the remainder of their lives, in what they claim are “one of the other many Arab countries”, branding the everyday Palestinian “just another lying Jordanian”. There is absolutely no more time to be wasted on entertaining the false premises upon which Pro-Israel organizations operate, shrouding themselves in historical revisionism and falsifying the narrative to such an extent that it finds itself able to trail its way throughout the House and Senate. We will not stand for it in the House and Senate and we will not stand for it when offered a handshake and a sticker.
So what is true dialogue? True dialogue is solidarity with minority organizations, whose own communities have suffered at the hands of Israel’s crimes, whether it be through the forced sterilization of African refugee women at the hands of the Israeli government or through training Missouri police to continue their campaign of brutality and state violence against black and brown bodies. Our dialogue, true dialogue, is doing away with Israel’s “pinkwashing”, having proclaimed itself a beacon of safety and hope for queer individuals so as to downplay its destruction of indigenous communities since 1948, going on to disregard the same indiscriminate occupation and even blackmail that queer Palestinians endure. Our dialogue, true dialogue, is dismantling the notion that this is a centuries-old religious conflict between the embittered children of Isaac and Ishmael, reaching out to campus ministries and denominations that are complicit in Palestinian suffering on account of the stranglehold that heretical theology has on them, having dire consequences for the suffering and occupied Palestinian Christian communities across the Holy Land. Our dialogue, true dialogue, is reaching out in love and solidarity to Jewish individuals who may feel uneasy about declaring “not in my name”, for fear of being ostracized by their communities, necessitating the existence of safe spaces such as Jewish Voice for Peace & Open Hillel (and no, Hillel, which officially declares that Israel is “at the heart” of its work, is not just a religious organization—we don’t appreciate the underlying accusations of those who claim otherwise).
As we have continued to examine the nature of Israel’s apartheid, having met the standards outlined in the 1973 Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid, it became clear in 2005 to Palestinian civil society that an economic conversation was necessary, resulting in the international call for the BDS Movement—Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions against the State of Israel until it complies with international law by granting the Right of Return (stipulated in 1949) to Palestinian refugees, ending the colonization and occupation of all Arab lands from the Golan Heights to East Jerusalem and dismantling the apartheid wall which has crippled the Palestinian economy, and granting equal rights and citizenship to those Palestinian citizens of Israel. Genuine dialogue, that which embraces the truth and uplifts the voices of the downtrodden, has always been an economic conversation. Zionism, from the very beginning, sought to discourage Palestinian ownership and success in their own land, with organizations such as the Jewish National Fund systematically displacing the indigenous peoples by paving the way for the wholesale destruction and ethnic cleansing of Palestinian society in 1948. Dialogue is not words tucked between sips of coffee, but is boycott, divestment, and sanctions against a rogue state which consistently defies international law and norms of human rights, and speaking truth to power at all times regardless of the baseless claims leveled against the oppressed which seek to undermine their rights to self-determination and liberation.
We, Athens for Justice in Palestine and Christians United for Palestine, will remain steadfast in our determination and perseverance, seeking a just peace for the Palestinian people. We will not be discouraged by big-money organizations that seek to redefine oppression, branding it synonymous with the criticism of a nation-state guilty of slaughter and ethnic cleansing. We will call out to our Black allies, our Latinx allies, our queer allies, our allies of faith, our irreligious allies, and we will continue to speak out against the injustices that Pro-Israel advocacy groups condone with their everyday rhetoric and propaganda. The common ground between AJP/CUFP and other minority rights organizations will be the advancement of equal rights and opportunities for all peoples, including the Palestinian people and all people of color whose worth has been invalidated time and time again, recognizing the intrinsic value of human life in all situations. Injustice must end and our righteous anger will be neither placated nor suppressed. We are not sorry, and we hope you join us.