NEW JERSEY SOLIDARITY RESPONDS TO ATTEMPTS TO SHUT DOWN THE 3RD ANNUAL NORTH AMERICAN STUDENT CONFERENCE ON THE PALESTINE SOLIDARITY MOVEMENT
July 11, 2003
New Jersey Solidarity - Activists for the Liberation of Palestine is deeply disturbed to hear of the recent involvement of state officials in seeking to interfere with the Third North American Student Conference of the Palestine Solidarity Movement , to be held at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ on October 10-12, 2003. State Senate President Bennett's recent condemnation of our conference and our organization can be seen as nothing but a call to official state censorship of the Palestine solidarity movement in New Jersey and at Rutgers University. Governor McGreevey's concomitant statement that he is concerned that our conference will not provide "balance" and will be an "anti-Israel rally" is similarly indicative of a desire to suppress students' political advocacy and organization.
We are the host organization for a North American conference and a North American movement. Across the continent and around the world, activists and organizers concerned for social justice have joined together to stand in solidarity with their Palestinian brothers and sisters struggling for national liberation against a racist regime of occupation, oppression, dispossession and imperialism. Within the United States, a nation whose government currently seeks to provide the government of the state of Israel with $10 billion this year alone, we seek divestment from the apartheid state of Israel, and an end to the direct and indirect economic assistance which enables that state to maintain its structure of oppression and occupation. We learn from the international solidarity movement with the South African people that built a strong divestment campaign from apartheid South Africa, and, most importantly, seek to take leadership and inspiration from the Palestinian people's liberation movement. Our movement is a movement for justice, equality and meaningful democracy; that state officials would seek to suppress such a movement is reflective of their lack of commitment to academic freedom, freedom of speech, or freedom of political association.
Rutgers University has continued to support our rights to freedom of speech and association. As a student organization, we are entitled to the same rights as all other student organizations, rights recognized by the university. At the same time, state officials have sought to undercut the authority of the university, interfere with student organizing and disrupt academic freedom. These officials' concern is particularly hypocritical following the recent budget cycle, in which higher education funding was slashed leading to massive tuition increases upon Rutgers University students; the portion of the funding that was restored was done so solely because of the dedicated work of the University community, spearheaded by student organizers, to struggle against budget cuts and tuition hikes. McGreevey, Bennett and their ilk could not be depended upon to struggle against budget cuts and for affordable, accessible education; however, they are now visibly seeking to suppress student organization and student free speech.
This attack is not limited to the Palestine solidarity movement, or New Jersey Solidarity-Rutgers Chapter; it is an attack upon the ability of all students to engage in advocacy, organizing and political struggle. The long history of Rutgers students' organizing - for racial justice, women's liberation, LGBTQ liberation, affordable education, community democracy and more - is under attack by the state government. This attack is not isolated - it follows in the trail of attacks on student organizing at the University of California-Berkeley, San Francisco State University, Concordia University, the University of Michigan, and many other universities, and in the trail of an assault upon immigrant communities, and the targeting of Arab and Muslim communities, for political and social repression. It is imperative that these attacks be fundamentally rejected.
Students and communities will continue to organize in solidarity with the Palestinian struggle for national liberation. We will continue to demand Palestinian refugees' full and unconditional right to return to their homes and lands, the end of the occupation and colonization of all Palestinian land, full equality under law for all, and an end to racism and all forms of oppression. We will continue to organize for divestment from the apartheid state of Israel. We will continue to demonstrate, mobilize, organize and take action, and we look forward to the successful Third North American Conference to bring the numerous organizers throughout the continent together to strengthen our movement, strategize for the future, and build a sustainable movement linked to our sisters and brothers in Palestine.