Tuesday, December 01, 2020

A wave of protests against IDF sweeps Western universities

By Yehudit Tzfat - December 01, 2019
Section: [Main News]
Tags: [students]

November saw a string of protests against Israel Defense Forces (IDF) across Western university campuses, signalling that the Palestinian solidarity movement is gaining momentum in the mainstream.

In the last two weeks, student demonstrations erupted in the United States and Canada against Israeli propaganda on college campuses. On 20 November, Reservists on Duty — an Israeli non-governmental organisation made up of reserve soldiers working to counter the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement — held an event at York University in Toronto. The event was hosted by Herut, a Zionist organisation in Canada. 

Following the panel discussion, allegations emerged that campus group Students Against Israeli Apartheid (SAIA), exhibited violence during their protest of the event. The group, however, said they were the target of violence from anti-Palestinian activists. 

“Palestinian students and students who turned up in support were assaulted and violently attacked during the rally,” SAIA said.

“Marshals and nonviolent protesters were kicked, spat on, shoved and were subjected to racist, sexist and Islamophobic slurs,” SAIA added. The group also claimed, “one protester was choked with his scarf.” 

The York Federation of Students (YFS) recently passed a motion indicating it will work to oppose “representatives of the Israeli state.” The motion was passed during the organisation’s annual general meeting on 28 November and states YFS will oppose “representatives of the Israeli state or any other imperialist power (that are) invited (to campus) to gather support for war and occupation in Palestine and elsewhere (by organising) mass mobilisations of students, workers, marginalised communities in opposition.”

About 100 people walked out of a talk led by reserve IDF soldier Yoni Michanie at the University of Florida on 19 November. Michanie accused the demonstrators of using anti-Semitic language. Laila Fakhoury, the president of campus group Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and the protest organiser, disagreed with that notion.

"He was the one that first said that we called him a Nazi, war criminal, and colonialists that he put on his own social media. We never said anything about that in fact, our organisation led a silent protest," Fakhoury said.

The SJP chapter at Vassar College in New York disrupted pro-Israel activist and ex-IDF soldier Hen Mazzig’s lecture on 14 November. When his presentation on “The Indigenous Jews of the Middle East: Forgotten Refugees” began, Mazzig was interrupted by chants of “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.” 

And on 13 November, more than 100 Harvard students walked out on the Israeli consul general, Dani Dayan, during his speech on settlements. On the same day, Arizona State University students stormed a campus event led by the IDF resulting in a last-minute change of venue.

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