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The Palestinian people have long faced oppression and ethnic cleansing at the hands of the state of Israel and Zionist settlers. One of the more horrendous examples of this is the 1948 “Nakba,” meaning catastrophe in Arabic.
During this ethnic cleansing, approximately 700,000 Palestinians fled their land under the threat of violence and murder by Zionist militias which would later form the backbone of the Israeli Defense Forces.
It was through military occupation, massacres and the forced eviction of the masses of indigenous Palestinians that the state of Israel was founded.
This process of ethnic cleansing — the process of systematically eliminating an “undesirable” group of people from a territory on the basis of ethnicity, religion, nationality, etc. — continues today as illegal settlements are built in the West Bank and as Israel regularly launches relentless military assaults on the people in Gaza, such as in 2018, 2014, 2012 and 2008.
In the Gaza Strip, the conditions for Palestinians are especially bad. Gaza is effectively an open-air prison due to the Israeli blockade. Israel restricts the flow of people and goods through Gaza and has deprived the people there of food, clean water and infrastructure materials. As a result, the UN has estimated that Gaza will be unlivable by 2020.
A total of 2,251 Palestinians –– mostly civilians –– were killed during Israel’s assault on Gaza in 2014, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Israel targeted hospitals, schools, mosques and other civilian infrastructure, and entire neighborhoods throughout Gaza were flattened.
However, where there is oppression, there is resistance. One example of this resistance is the Great March of Return. Starting on March 30, 2018, Palestinians began weekly protests at the Gaza-Israel border demanding they have access to return and live in the land that they were exiled from 71 years ago. This is a right of refugees stipulated by the UN.
Protestors also called for an end to the blockade and siege on Gaza. Israel has responded with massacres. Since the protests began, at least 189 Gazans have been killed and over 9,000 wounded. Israeli snipers have shot Palestinians in the legs during protests so that they do not die from the gunshots. They are then left crippled for life in Gaza without access to adequate medical care.
There has also been solidarity with the Palestinians on an international scale, especially in the United States. However, the U.S. government is the No. 1 supporter of the Israeli occupation of Palestine and oppression of Palestinians, as it gives Israel financial, military and political support.
Without the U.S.’s aid and defense in the UN, Israel would not be able to withstand international pressure to end its apartheid system and occupation of the Palestinian people. In this context, a Palestinian-led movement to Boycott, Divest and Sanction Israel and companies which support the occupation was created in 2005.
In response, major attacks — such as blacklisting — have been launched against pro-Palestine activists. Moreover, prominent figures and intellectuals — such as Marc Lamont Hill, Angela Davis and Ilhan Omar — have been hounded for expressing support for Palestine.
There have also been numerous efforts within the United States to pass laws criminalizing support for the BDS movement — which are violations of the right to free association — including one bill which recently passed in the Senate.
Despite this political and ideological crackdown, support for Palestine is growing. For that reason, Boston University Students for Justice in Palestine is launching a campaign to push BU to sever its ties with Israeli apartheid.
BU has open ties to Israel, which serve to whitewash the country’s image. For example, BU maintains a Study Abroad program in Haifa, which it describes as a “picturesque mix of people and cultures” — a strange description to give to a city made “Israeli” only through ethnic cleansing and dispossession.
Even more shameful, officials from the BU Police Department traveled to Israel in December 2017 for a “National Counter-Terrorism Seminar,” learning tactics from the same forces which maintain the occupation and oppression of Palestinians.
Because Boston University has not made the full extent of its endowment or financial relationships public, it could also be directly aiding Israel through investment in either Israeli companies or companies that directly aid the occupation, such as Hewlett-Packard and weapons manufacturer Raytheon.
Given the March of Return’s one-year anniversary, students must come together to support the Palestinian struggle for liberation, including through the BDS movement.
BU Students for Justice in Palestine is thus launching a campaign in solidarity with the Palestinian people, demanding BU cut ties with Israeli apartheid. We demand that BU ends its Study Abroad program in Haifa and its participation in the “Deadly Exchange” of US-Israeli police partnerships.
We also demand the university make public its financial ties with all governments, corporations and other institutions, especially those in which its endowment is invested. To not do so would tell the world that the finances of BU are more important than the life and freedom of the Palestinian people.
Just as students at BU and all across the country rose up in the 1980s to oppose university ties with the racist South African regime, we must take up their legacy and call for an end to BU’s support for the racist Israeli regime. The time for change is long overdue.
Farrah Abboushi (CAS ‘19) and Chance Charley (CGS ‘19, CAS ‘21) are both members of BU Students for Justice in Palestine. You can contact the group at [email protected]