Here is the video of the demonstration on feb 3rd:
Below is a Letter written to the hampshire community. It describes the events in the video above and was published in the student newspaper on 02/17/11.
Dear Community Members,
We are issuing this statement as concerned members of Hampshire’s Students for Justice in Palestine to inform the community about the event that took place on Thursday, February 3, 2011. We feel that the letter that President Fried sent out the following day omitted crucial information about what took place that night and that it is necessary to clarify the nature of this specific event.
Sergeant Benjamin Anthony of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) came to give a presentation on behalf of his organization, Our Soldiers Speak. The sole purpose of this organization is to present the lives of Israeli soldiers and the wars they are a part of in a sympathetic light, with no mention of the Palestinian civilians who suffer as a result of these wars. As such, they implicitly and explicitly defend the internationally recognized war crimes soldiers like Sgt. Benjamin Anthony have participated in.
Appalled that an soldier from an occupying army was coming to speak openly on our campus, a multi-generational group of students and community members participated in a collective protest during the event. Our protest had multiple goals: to call attention to the fact that there was no space for the voices of Palestinians to speak to the injustices committed against them by such soldiers like Sgt. Anthony, to challenge his purported “a-political” participation in the occupation of Palestine, and to offer a safe space for support and remembrance of those thousands silenced, killed, and displaced by the Israeli regime. In the interest of transparency, we would like to outline the steps we took to carry out each of these goals.
SJP produced and distributed a pamphlet for the event that described the history of the organizations that sponsored the event, including their participation in Islamophobic, racist, and anti-Arab propaganda. From the beginning of the event, a banner was held that read: “where is the Palestinian voice in this dialogue?”, while protesters held up signs with phrases including “Never Again for Anyone” and “The Wall Must Fall,” as well as names of the 352 children killed during Operation Cast Lead. Over the course of the night, members and allies of our group stood up and raised their voices as a form of resistance to Sgt. Anthony’s narrative, and all of them complied with Public Safety when they were asked to leave the room. Those expelled from the lecture hall joined a vigil in the lobby, which offered an open space for song, silence, and honor for those who have died as a result of the occupation. The vigil allowed us to remember those who continue to resist, within the occupied Palestinian territories and internationally.
Our intentions in disrupting Anthony’s speech were to re-center the talk in a human rights discourse, and to condemn the human rights violations of the longest standing military occupation in the world. From the outset, the structure of the event itself showed a power disparity.
Only those in support of the speaker were allowed to sit in the front three rows, with the exception of a protester who uses a wheelchair and two of her friends. members of the audience were not only barred from sitting in the first three rows but were immediately warned that if we attempted to go towards the stage we would be handcuffed immediately. The audience was also informed that nobody would be allowed to use recording equipment in the room. However, this was only enforced against protesters; a handful of Sgt. Anthony’s supporters recorded the event without consequence or impediment.
Throughout the event, the administrative representatives present fully cooperated with Sgt. Anthony’s agenda, which we feel discredited subsequent claims they made for fair and just “dialogue.” In a move that is unprecedented at Hampshire, public safety officers guarded the doors for the entirety of the event and did not allow anyone to enter late or re-enter if they had left. Everyone attending was prevented from entering until the speaker gave his order. Each person was then lined-up in single file by a public safety officer. When one Hampshire student was assaulted and called a “faggot” by a supporter of the speaker, public safety officers initially moved to remove the Hampshire student who received the homophobic slur, rather than the person who used this threatening language. When two Palestinians in the room were referred to as ‘terrorists’, no action was taken. No attention was given to the safety of protesters when audience members suffered hate speech.
We understand this event as part of an effort to whitewash the IDF and to distract from growing international criticism of Israel’s human rights violations. As students in the US, it is our responsibility to critique our government and challenge our educational institutions for their unquestioning support of Israel’s atrocities. Whenever the Israeli government and its supporters attempt to gloss over 46 years of war crimes, glorify the construction of illegal settlements, claim democracy despite the blockade and bombardment of Gaza to overthrow its democratically elected government, legitimize the confiscation of water access, or justify the destruction of thousands of Palestinian homes, they will be challenged with truth and justice.
We will not be silent.
Students for Justice in Palestine
Below is the PDF of the pamphlet we handed out at the beginning of the IDF soldier event while people were standing around. This version is the printable version so it is a bit hard to read. You need to rotate it or stand on your head… More readable version coming soon!
Students for Justice in Palestine reflections on December 17, 2010 from Acting President Fried and Special Presidential Assistant Davila in response to threatening incidents on campus
On January 17, President Marlene Fried and Dean Jaime Davila wrote a statement to the campus reporting incidents of threats and personal violence to students who identify politically with the state of Israel. As a politically-engaged student group that is predicated on principles of social justice, we find it necessary to condemn alarming acts like these that have been recently directed at individuals on our campus. Personal attacks against students regardless of their political association is inappropriate, futile and does not progress any sort of vision of social justice that we strive to realize. While we are still not fully informed about the specific incidents that took place, there were allusions to the reported incidents stemming from anti-Jewish hatred. We sincerely hope these conclusions came from a critical examination by the administration of the difference between anti-Jewish intolerance and opposition to Zionism, which is the predominant ideology behind political support for the state of Israel. In light of that, Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) would like to take the opportunity to state unequivocally: we stand against anti-Semitism alongside all other forms of racism and cultural oppression. We consider anti-Semitism to be linked to the genesis of the system of injustices we are working to uproot in solidarity with Palestinians.
However, what is very clear to us is that the letter issued to every member of the Hampshire community was not primarily concerned with acts of anti-Semitism, but with vocal opposition towards expressions of Zionism. The letter included elusive suggestions to a conflation of personal Jewish identity and Zionist identity. The reference by the President and Dean’s language in the letter to such issues as “identity-based interactions” purports that “political support for the state of Israel” is primarily an issue of identity. Consequently, President Fried and Dean Davila propose it should be treated with the same amount of sensitivity that the school treats people’s identification with a specific cultural heritage, religion, race, gender, or sexuality. Historically, Hampshire has recognized a need to intervene in “identity-based interactions” after significant pressure from students, staff, or faculty to address forms of racism, classism, sexism, or trans/homophobia. In this situation, however, Hampshire is choosing to create a safety net for people whose political beliefs are actively being called into question on campus; not because of their general marginalization but because of their actual impact in being linked to the racial oppression of the Israeli occupation.
To understand someone’s identification as Zionist, one must understand the current and historical political context for Zionism’s impact on Palestinians as the main victims of Israel’s policies of oppression. For one to claim their identity as Zionist, they are professing a loyalty to the state of Israel’s institutionally racist Jewish-only laws, its illegal expansionist occupation of Palestinian land, the apartheid-like separation wall carving up the West Bank, and the systematic practice of displacement and ethnic cleansing that has affected Palestinian history for more than sixty years. A declared identity as Zionist therein carries responsibility for the consequences of this ideology and the policies which it dictates. This fundamentally includes an adherence to a settler-colonial state engaged in attempts to effectively remove all Palestinians from the hyper-imposed borders of Israel. The Palestinian struggle is one of the last anti-colonial movements of our time and requires our solidarity. It is paramount for our community to reconsider how it understands the politics of Zionism and the Israeli occupation without confusing matters of personal identity with systemic political oppression.
For the open letter to propose inclusive conversation regarding this issue insinuates an equivalence between the reality of those living under the illegal occupation in Palestine and the occupier themselves – Israel. According to PACBI (Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel), “any presumed parity between Israel and the Palestinians ignores the concrete reality of Israel’s colonial oppression… [Conversations] premised on such symmetry between the “two sides” are therefore detrimental to the application of international law and the pursuit of justice.”1 Discourses about Israel/Palestine on Hampshire’s campus nearly always center on the dominant Zionist narrative because broad support for the state of Israel allows for Palestinian voices to be silenced or marginalized and almost entirely excluded from this campus.
On Thursday, February 3rd 2011, an Israeli soldier is being brought to campus in an attempt to justify his participation in the brutal occupation of the Palestinian people. We find it reprehensible that at a time in which Hampshire is calling for increased ‘civility’ in our political discourse, a representative of the Israeli ‘Defense’ Forces would come to our campus in an attempt to garner sympathy for the ‘hardship’ he endured while serving his time. We do not think his presence is justifiable on our campus by any means and encourage those attending the event to remain critical of rhetoric often used to sanitize the destruction of Palestine. We sincerely hope the administration, students, staff, and faculty will consider their role on Hampshire’s campus to separate one’s affinity for the state of Israel as it comes into question and that of one’s professed identity.
Hampshire College Students for Justice in Palestine
For more information concerning the occupation and Palestinian solidarity, please see:
Here is the new (probably temporary) website for Hampshire Students for Justice in Palestine. Check it out for group updates, statements from SJP or the larger network of national SJP organizations, and any other news. Thanks for your support!