Labor for Palestine Calls on University Unions to Protect Students and Academic Workers and Demand BDS Now!

Labor for Palestine Calls on University Unions to Protect Students and Academic Workers and Demand BDS Now!

January 24, 2024

In addition to targeting hospitals, public infrastructure, agricultural land, UN refugee camps and communities, the ongoing US-backed Israeli settler genocide on Gaza has featured the systematic targetting of Palestinian higher education. Israel has bombed every single university in Gaza. Thousands of academic workers and students have been martyred. National Students for Justice in Palestine in their campaign have referred to this as “scholasticide” which “refers to the deliberate targeting of the education system and educators as part of a larger campaign of genocide.

In the context of the brutal genocide, students and academic workers across the country have accelerated their Palestine-solidarity organizing. At the same time, rising Islamophobic, anti-Palestinian, and anti-Arab sentiments nationwide as part of the drive by the US government and media to manufacture consent for genocide in Gaza, have created the conditions ripe for racist/zionist attacks on our campuses. 

University administrations, caving in to zionist donors and pressure from the government, are complicit in their complete erasure of Palestinian history, lived realities and humanity as well as their failure to address increased racism and violence on their campuses. They also have directly contributed through their demonization and criminalization of student organizers to an environment in which violent attacks are more likely. 

Student organizers have faced criminalization, arrests and targeted harassment including violence:

  • Three Palestinian students were shot in Burlington, Vermont
  • Dozens of SJP and JVP students at a protest at Columbia University were attacked with hazardous chemicals
  • Billboard trucks with hateful slogans and huge photographs doxxed and vilified individual student organizers at Harvard, Columbia, and CUNY, resulting in death threats
  • At Brooklyn College, a city councilwoman showed up to a student protest with a gun tucked prominently into her waistband
  • A professor at Indiana university was suspended after supporting students involved with Palestine solidarity organizing
  • Professors at Cornell and several other schools are facing campaigns to get them fired; students are having job offers revoked and precarious adjunct faculty are being threatened with the loss of their contracts if they speak out in support of Palestine. 

Together with funders and university administrators, US lawmakers are responsible for creating a hostile environment for students and academic workers organizing in solidarity with Palestine on our campuses. Ron DeSantis is trying to ban Students for Justice in Palestine from forming clubs at Florida’s universities, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed a resolution on October 26 denouncing student protests for Palestine as “antisemitic, repugnant, and morally contemptible”, followed by a Congressional hearing and U.S. House Resolution 894 that equates anti-Zionism with antisemitism.The Biden administration has pledged Departments of Justice and Homeland Security support for surveilling student activists. More than 100 institutions of higher education have signed on to a “coalition” that effectively criminalizes students organizing in solidarity with Palestinian liberation. 

Now, in this moment of a heightened US-backed genocide on Palestinians and repression of students and academic workers on our campuses, academic unions and rank and file organizers have a duty to take action to protect their students and workers from repression and retaliation as well as implement BDS against all institutions complicit in Israeli settler colonialism by taking the following concrete steps, in accordance with the Urgent Call from Palestinian Trade Unions: End all Complicity, Stop Arming Israel:

  • Protect union members who engage in pro-Palestine speech and advocacy – particularly Palestinian, Muslim, and Arab workers – from doxxing, surveillance, and repression within and beyond the workplace;
  • Pressure University administrations to issue a statement affirming the protected right to pro-Palestinian speech and civic activity on campus including dissent; 
  • Pressure University administrations to take seriously claims of harassment, intimidation, and threats filed by Palestinian and pro-Palestine students and workers; 
  • Pressure University administrations to expand their Non-Discrimination and Anti-Harassment policy to affirm the rights of students who profess solidarity with Palestinian liberation by explicitly prohibiting and working diligently to protect its students from doxxing and targeted harassment campaigns; 
  • Pressure the University administration to protect pro-Palestinian students’ rights to free expression in regards to clothing, such as wearing the keffiyeh; 
  • Pressure University administrations to reaffirm that they will not disband or suspend SJP or any other pro-Palestinian student and/or academic worker organization for exercising their right to peacefully protest; 
  • Pressure University administrations to ensure the University does not terminate or suspend a student and/or academic worker from school or any on-campus job or position (paid or unpaid) that is recognized by the University.
  • Terminate all ties with the Histadrut, Israel’s racist labor federation;
  • Divest our union and employer from Israel Bonds and the Israeli military, as well as extractive and technological industries connected with the Israeli occupation and U.S. imperialism;
  • Organize union contingents to protests and endorse actions in solidarity with Palestine to end the genocide. 
  • Demand that the United States government immediately halt all aid and military support to Israel;
  • Follow the lead of the UAW and establish a working group to investigate the union’s economic ties to Israel, and to militarism more broadly.
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