Earlier this semester, I joined with a group of about fifteen of my peers to create a group called Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP). I remember being nervous walking into the first meeting — I had heard warning tales from professors and friends about SJP’s actions on other campuses, and was concerned I was getting myself in over my head. But after spending a summer in Palestine witnessing the systematic, violent oppression of the Palestinian people, running from Hamas rockets in Tel Aviv, and walking through the squalor of a 64 year old “temporary” refugee camp every day, I couldn’t stay silent anymore.
I had never heard the term Palestine until I came to Goucher College about three and a half years ago. Goucher students inspired me with their seemingly endless passion for social justice issues, their level of knowledge of world issues, and their openness regarding differing opinions. Imagine my surprise when I started to look for a place to explore issues related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and found only one place to do so — Hillel. Digging a little deeper, I discovered that attempts in the past to show support for Palestine on Goucher’s campus had been met with opposition and hostility. Our very existence is a surprise to alumni who never thought it possible. Our presence at Club Rush was enough to incite fear among Zionist students and faculty. In fact, we have yet to hold a single event or direct action on campus. 4Tell me Goucher, why do we scare you so much?
Goucher Students for Justice in Palestine is a place where we no longer have to whisper in fear of being alienated for expressing our solidarity with the Palestinian people. We strive to be perfectly intersectional, as one group’s struggle against an oppressive power is reflective of all groups’ struggles against oppression. We stand opposed to all prejudicial ideologies, including but not limited to: racism, anti-Semitism (despite claims to the contrary), sexism, Islamophobia and classism. We understand the history of Jewish persecution and the Zionist movement, but we do not agree that this persecution justifies the current occupational, apartheid state in Israel. We do not aim to be the voice of Palestinians on Goucher’s campus, but rather wish to raise awareness and build solidarity with the Palestinian people. For me personally, my journey to SJP came through my Jewish identity. For others in our group, it came from a variety of interests, including politics, the Arabic language, and human rights. Regardless, we are a group of students who will no longer accept the dominant Zionist narrative present on Goucher’s campus. To quote my friend and fellow SJP-er, Ashley Begley, “Status Quo Done.”
The Western world is turning in favor of recognizing the plight of the Palestinians and their right to self-determination as demonstrated by the recent votes by several European countries to recognize a Palestinian state. Goucher, which claims to be a hub of progressivism, liberalism, and acceptance, has remained surprisingly close-minded on this one particular issue. Tell me, Goucher students; will you stand behind an apartheid state that has built itself on the continued systematic oppression of an ethnic group? Or will you stand in solidarity as a woman, as a Latino, as a Jew, as an Asian- American, as an African-American, or as a human being with a group of people struggling for dignity, justice and equality in the face of an overwhelmingly powerful oppressor?