SJP in The Student Newspaper

The Student

This is the unedited version of an article published in the student newspaper The Student, in the end of February 2010. By Aoife Keenan.

Students for Justice in Palestine brings together Edinburgh University students actively campaigning for justice in Palestine and for effective solidarity with the Palestinian people. Since SJP was relaunched in September 2009, we have been working hard to raise awareness on campus through discussion groups, speakers, film screenings, direct action and more.

In December 2008 – January 2009, the Israeli army and airforce killed over 1300 people (*), including over 400 children, and injured over 4000 in a series of aggressive attacks on Gaza. White phosphorus was used illegally, and schools, hospitals and civilian homes were targeted, including 3 schools and a hospital belonging to the UN. Just over a year ago, Edinburgh University students decided to take direct action to pressure the University administration into ending its financial and commercial links to the state of Israel and into publicly comdemning what the UN President of the General Assembly, Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann, described as “genocide”. Following a student occupation of George Square lecture theatre, the University administration agreed to provide scholarships for Gaza students to study here, to stop allowing Eden Springs on campus – a company that operates of illegally occupied territory, and to continue dialogue regarding divesting from companies that were enabling this conflict and the illegal occupation of Palestinian territory.

The momentum from this action and the addition of new and enthusiastic students gave birth to SJP. We have undertaken a wide range of projects this year; perhaps most controversial was our support for the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement called for by the Palestinian people in 2005 as a non-violent means of resisting oppression and putting international pressure on Israel to uphold international law. We invited Ronnie Kasrils, a former South African government minister under Nelson Mandela, and Omar Barghouti, a Palestinian academic and activist, to speak to us about boycott as a strategy. Sadly though, the motion we brought to the EUSA AGM (Annual General Meeting) in November in support of BDS proved somewhat unpopular. But our campaigning continues.

Otherwise, our attentions have been very focussed on awareness raising across campus. Last week we organised Right to Education Week, a week of events aimed at highlighting some of the issues that young Palestinians face in trying to access education under Israeli occupation. 411 students from in the West Bank have been incarcerated since 2003 – most of them “prisoners of conscience” – solely serving time for belonging to student societies or political parties, and restrictions on movement has greatly affected Palestinians’ access to higher education. EUSA is twinned with Birzeit Students’ Union, and this week also aims to foster links between the two student bodies and to support in any way we can Palestinians’ fundamental right to education. Among other events, a video link between students here and at Birzeit opened a dialogue about how we can best do this, and gave us a better insight into the day-to-day of a Palestinian student, and an evening of music and dance performances raised £200 for the charity Friends of Birzeit University.

We were out on Guthrie Street and Bristo Square in force on the 25th February for a street party for the International Day of Action to open Shuhada Street. This is one of the main streets in the city of Hebron that has been closed to Palestinians since an extremist settler murdered 29 Palestinians while they were at prayer. With food donated by the Mosque Kitchen, music and megaphones we took part in this global campaign.

In May we will be organising a trip to visit Palestine for any student who is interested. We will be visiting three different universities, meeting students and learning about the Palestinian culture and way of life. Anybody at all who is interested in this should get in touch at edinburghsjp [AT] gmail.com .
We will continue to fight for Palestinians’ fundamental human rights to be upheld. We have lots more really interesting events coming up, check out our website at http://sjp.eusa.ed.ac.uk to find out more!

(*) In the paper version of this article, a typo gave the number of deaths as being over 3,000. The Palestinian Center for Human Rights estimated the number to 1,417 (Press Release, Ref 36/2009, 12 March 2009). The Israeli Defense Forces to 1,166 (Jerusalem Post, 26 March 2009).