Hi, incoming Northeastern University students! Welcome to Students for Justice in Palestine’s portion of the disorientation guide. We want to talk about why advocating for Palestinian sovereignty and self-determination is important, and how it intersects with organizing against all forms of oppression.
First, we want to recognize that information about what many call the “Israel/Palestine conflict” is not made available to most folks living in what is known as the “United States” because of intense Pro-Israel media campaigns . This is why we want to shed some light on the background of Israeli settler colonialism of Palestine, and what direction we think solidarity work should be going in. For starters, read our article in the Northeastern Political Review titled “The 'Deal of the Century' and the Death of the Two-State Solution” .
Now that we’ve talked about background, it is important to tie these settler colonial crimes to Northeastern’s involvement in them. Settler colonialism is “an ongoing system of power that perpetuates the genocide and repression of indigenous peoples and cultures” while normalizing the settler’s occupation and exploitation of the land and resources . The disastrous effects of settler colonialism are evident not only in Israel, but in other settler-colonial states such as Australia, Canada, and the United States. First, we want to acknowledge that Northeastern was built on indigenous Massachusett and Pawtucket land, and that Palestinian liberation is tied to indigenous struggles everywhere. Palestinian liberation is also tied to demiliatrization of both the United States and Israel, and not just metaphorically- police forces in the United States, including ICE, train with the Israeli Defense Force, exchanging surveillance tactics, racial profiling, detention, and attacks on those in solidarity with targeted populations (like medics, media, etc) . In addition to asking Northeastern to boycott, divest and sanction (BDS) companies committing human rights abuses in Israel (we’ll talk more about this below), we ask Northeastern to commit to divesting from prisons, police, and ICE here. These are larger goals we know we can achieve when the majority of students at Northeastern believe in community, in collective action and in applying pressure to administration- we just need to help each other get there.
The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement (BDS)
BDS is a nonviolent tactic that has been used to target Israel since 2005, called for by more than 170 Palestinian civil society groups (trade unions, popular committees, NGOs, etc.). BDS is a means to put pressure on the Israeli government economically, politically and culturally. This is done so by boycotting companies that collaborate with the Israeli state, encouraging other businesses and institutions to divest from these companies, and asking other countries to sanction Israel for its criminal actions. In addition to this, cultural pressure asks that artists, and other individuals and groups do not visit Israel for performances or trips. Boycotts are historically successful in social justice movements, as they target the onus of capitalist systems.
The modern Palestinian BDS movement is heavily inspired by the South African BDS movement. BDS asks three things of the state of Israel, though many organizers ask for these three things as minimum: (1) equality for Palestinian citizens of Israel (2) the end of the occupation and destruction of the apartheid wall and (3) the right of return for Palestinian refugees. Although these three facets do not address Israeli colonialism and the illegitimacy of the Israeli state, they are starter points for Palestinian liberation and starter points for how we hope Northeastern can begin to recognize Palestinian sovereignty.
BDS at Northeastern (Raytheon, HP and other cloaked investments)
In the past, SJP has run campaigns to get Northeastern to make its investments public so that we could have a better idea of what harmful institutions they give money to, be it in Israel or in the U.S. They consistently refused to release their investments, claiming that because they were invested in bonds it is impossible to be transparent with the money that we students give them for our education.
HOWEVER, we do know that Northeastern is entrenched with companies HP and Raytheon, which is obvious from our ‘Raytheon Amphitheater.’ Makes us wonder whether Northeastern cares more about money than they do about people.
With that in mind, SJP calls on Northeastern to cut ties with HP and Raytheon and all other companies involved with weapons of surveillance and mass death.
Raytheon is the world’s fifth-largest defense contractor, the third largest in the United States. It is a weapons manufacturer that produces weapons used in such atrocities as the recent U.S. missile strike against Syria , Operation Protective Edge in Gaza, and Israel’s 2006 massacre of 28 civilians in Qana, Lebanon. They sell missiles, “defense” systems, and other armaments to the IDF, contributing directly to the ongoing incarceration and death of the Palestinian people. Northeastern works with Raytheon by setting up co-ops with the company, allowing them to recruit on campus, and even conducting explosives-related research for ALERT, a “partnership” run in collaboration with the Department of Homeland Security that Raytheon collaborates with. Furthermore, Raytheon has gifted Northeastern enough money that our university has seen fit to name an amphitheater after the company. This company must be specifically targeted in order to carry forward the BDS campaign and try to pressure the Israeli state, yet Northeastern has done the opposite.
HP’s collaboration with Northeastern is less blatant in that they mainly sell computers and printers to the University in bulk. However, the company commits crimes similar to those of Raytheon- HP works with the Israeli government through the maintenance of an apartheid ID system that Israel uses to restrict and track Palestinians through and across colonial boarders between Palestine ‘48 (what is considered Israel), the West Bank and Gaza . The system allows for extrajudicial killings by the IDF, and the effective imprisonment of Palestinian people in villages or camps that are then systematically deprived of resources. HP has committed similar atrocities on the US-Mexico border by providing ID systems and databases to ICE to speed up deportations . HP has a history of these immoral business deals, and was a major target in the BDS movement against South Africa as well.
Northeastern’s Cultural Ties to Israel
University classes too often present the “balanced conflict” narrative which frames israeli occupation as the “Israel/Palestine Conflict,” implying that “both sides” have equal resources and are equally to blame for the current state of affairs in the region. We must reject this narrative and from the sources we have included hope you do your own research on Palestinian home demolitions, the atrocities of the IDF, and constant gaslighting from the Israeli state claiming a solution is possible while they continue to illegally annex Palestinian land.
In reality, the IDF has far and away the most advanced weapons and artillery in the Middle East, and receives massive arms deals from the US, as well as billions of dollars in military aid, making it one of the most sophisticated armies globally. With this army, Israel successfully terrorizes Palestinian children, women, and civilians who are going about their day with checkpoints, random arbitrary arrests, house raids, and even assisting in seizing and demolishing Palestinian homes. Palestinians are subject to constant harassment, surveillance, and discrimination. Palestinians are depicted as the main blockade to ‘peace in the Middle East,’ which is a claim aided by islamophobia, anti-Arab sentiments and orientalism.
In addition to having a neutral narrative around Israeli occupation, Northeastern University sends students on alternative spring break trips to Israel as well as on Birthright, promoting the new nation as a site for cultural, spiritual and economic growth. We do not doubt the land’s religious and cultural importance- we just ask that this is not validated at the expense of the Palestinian struggles for liberation.
SJP at Northeastern Fall 2020
We must continue to educate ourselves and our peers on the urgency of the issues in Palestine. As illegal settlements, bombings and arbitrary incarcerations increase against Palestinians, we must continue to pressure Northeastern to stop validating Israel as an ethical partner while ignoring the brutality of life under occupation.