In the Face of Repression, Resistance Thrives

Statement by Students for Justice in Palestine at George Washington University and George Washington University Student Coalition for Palestine, published on Mondoweiss, December 15, 2023

It has been over two months since the beginning of the Zionist regime most recent stage of genocide against the steadfast people of Gaza, in which almost 20,000 of our people have been slaughtered by occupation forces.

Since the beginning of this month alone, we have watched zionist forces abduct and parade bound Palestinian men through the streets of Beit Lahia, stripped of their clothes, in a repulsive act of complete and utter dehumanization. We have watched zionist forces murder over 1,000 of our people in a single day in massacres in Shuja’iya, Beit Lahia, and the Jabalia refugee camp — the bloodiest day for Palestinians since the beginning of this genocide. We have watched thousands of Gazans gather in crowds near UNRWA centers, demanding food to feed their families, who have been deliberately blockaded from fuel, medical supplies, food, and clean water by the occupation. Millions have been left to die of starvation and disease, promising a slow death to the remainder of Gazans who have evaded the airstrikes.

Families screaming from under the ruins of their homes, fathers and mothers desperately digging through the rubble for their children, bodies piled into mass graves, faces burnt off, dismembered limbs, red hospital floors, refugee camps and neighborhoods razed to the ground. These images have been seared into our minds and the cries of our people pierce our souls every minute of every hour of every day.

For two months, we have felt the crushing pain of our people, and for two months, we have been out in the streets and all over our campus protesting for an end to this bloodbath and GW’s shameless complicity. We have organized protests, letters, sit-ins, email campaigns and walkouts every single week, demanding that GW terminate its investments in the companies whose tanks, missiles, and war technology are being used to slaughter our families and loved ones. In retaliation, this university, whose hands are still red with our people’s blood, has attempted to silence and attack us every step of the way.

These attacks culminated two weeks ago, when a doxxing truck operated by a far-right media organization drove through campus with the names and faces of 12 student organizers emblazoned on the sides with the words, “GWU’s Leading Antisemites.” The truck eventually drove to and parked in front of the Elliott School of International Affairs, where we were holding a sit-in demanding divestment, as a direct threat made against student organizers. We began the sit-in silently inside the Elliott building, in order to protect ourselves from the truck that we and administration both knew was coming to campus that morning, yet we were forced to move outside due to deliberately excessive restrictions from administration. Despite the extreme mobilization of GW’s private police force and administrative officials there to surveil and intimidate us at our protest, it was us and our comrades who protected ourselves, holding up banners to block the disgusting messages on the truck and keeping each other safe from the “reporters” videotaping and harassing us. All the while, police stood by monitoring to protect the aggressor’s private property instead of their own students, despite the truck being parked illegally in a construction zone for an hour.

Demonstrators block the name and face of one of several students being doxxed as “GWU’S Leading Antisemites” on a truck paid for by far-right outler, Accuracy in Media on Nov. 29. (Photo: Taytum Wymer)

Following this attack, The GW Hatchet’s editorial board, who has refused to publish op-eds under SJP’s name and has cowardly abstained from condemnation of our people’s genocide, published an editorial rightfully denouncing the doxxing truck; yet they fallaciously asserted that “Chants of, ‘You know who keeps us safe? We keep us safe’ are cries for help” to the University.

Let us be clear. “We keep us safe” is NOT a cry for help. It is, in fact, the exact opposite: a cry of dignity, resistance, and radical community that asserts our collective power as the organized masses in the face of the institutions orchestrating repression and violence against us. The Hatchet’s assertion is a mischaracterization, made in complete ignorance by those who have no understanding of our people’s struggle or the nature of our movement. It is a falsehood based on the erroneous premise that the administration’s greatest fault lies in their failure to protect their students, rather than in the attacks that they themselves have actively waged against our community. Acts of hatred like the doxxing truck are the direct and inevitable result of the criminal actions University administration have taken, not simply a failure over the ones they haven’t.

So let us be specific. In the immediate aftermath of the start of this genocide, University administration, particularly President Ellen Granberg, put out statements condemning “the recent attack on Israel,” without so little as an acknowledgment of the brutal genocide that has made thousands of our people martyrs, seemingly unable to even utter the word “Palestine” for fear of angering GW’s zionist benefactors.

Following a vigil, in which we as a community of Palestinians, Arabs, Muslims, and those in solidarity, gathered to grieve our slaughtered friends and family, President Granberg released another disgustingly racist and Islamophobic statement in which she slandered our vigil as a “celebration of terrorism.”

In late October, SJP held a projector action in protest of the abhorrent statements made by President Granberg and GW’s continued refusal to divest from the machines of Palestinian death. Despite being originally greenlit by campus police, GWPD shut down our action at the behest of Dean Colette Coleman, after which President Granberg doubled down on her anti-Palestinian racism and Islamophobia by condemning our action’s honoring of our murdered loved ones as martyrs and calling for liberation from oppression and colonialism from the river to the sea as “antisemitic phrases.”

Following national zionist backlash and threats of zionist donors pulling funding, GW dragged SJP through formal conduct hearings, where the student organization was found in violation of a delusory policy around postering as well as a farcical “noncompliance” policy. SJP was placed on disciplinary probation until the end of the academic year, prohibited from posting any communications on campus, and banned from campus for 90 days.

A protester holds up a sign with the words “SILENCING STUDENTS IS FASCIST” at a Nov. 15 Student Coalition for Palestine demonstration protesting GW’s 90-day suspension of SJP. (Photo: Taytum Wymer)

We know that the doxxing truck was not an isolated attack on our community, but the direct result of administration’s actions. When President Granberg refuses to utter the word “Palestine” or to condemn this ongoing genocide, she erases our people and issues tacit approval of Palestinian death. When she weaponizes racist and Islamophobic language against us and refers to our mourning as “celebration of terrorism,” she further dehumanizes us by denying our right to mourn our dead, disgracing the names of our martyrs. When Dean Coleman and administration shut down our protests, they publicly declare that Palestinians do not and should not have the right to free speech in the face of our people’s ethnic cleansing. When they drag us through kangaroo courts and ban SJP from campus, they demonstrate their resolve to crush every last space left for Palestinians to come together as a community.

President Granberg and Dean Colette Coleman put out a statement after the doxxing truck left in which they “condemn[ed]” this incident, but we see this for what it is: a transparent attempt to absolve themselves of their responsibility in emboldening zionist hatred, violence, and repression. We know who they are and what they stand for. We know where their interests lie. Palestinian, Arab, and Muslim student organizers have been getting doxxed and harassed for months to administration’s knowledge, and they have refused to do anything. Only when zionist intimidation results in bad press for the University are they capable of the bare minimum of a milquetoast condemnation with no material steps to protect students from further threats to their safety.

This is, again, a continuation of their policy of turning a blind eye to violence and harassment against our community. Since the beginning of this genocide, multiple students have reported incidents of getting their hijabs ripped off. Palestinian students have been spat on, and many have experienced incidents of verbal harassment. On the night of October 7, in a disgusting incident in Kogan Plaza, Chabad Rabbi Yudi Steiner yelled at a female Muslim student, drunkenly screaming “Allah Akbar! Allah Akbar!” Steiner even attempted to get in the student’s face and was only held back by several other students who afterwards tried to coerce her into not reporting the incident to “keep this between us.” Despite being supposedly banned from campus, Rabbi Steiner has continued to participate in on-campus events, and administration, despite also being aware of these other incidents, has deliberately ignored real incidents of violence against our community, while painting even the most basic expressions of Palestinian free speech as inherently violent.

Our administrators are not stupid, nor are they unaware of what they are doing. On the contrary, they have expressed to zionist audiences their desire to engage in scorched earth repression against Palestinians, limited only by the unfortunate existence of legal and university policies.

Recently, the Student Coalition for Palestine, which formed in the wake of SJP’s suspension, was informed of a recording from a Nov. 16 alumni event, sent to us by an anonymous source. In the recording, parts of which are clipped in the video below, zionist alumni and parents expressed horrific sentiments about SJP and Palestinian students, rife with racist, Islamophobic rhetoric and lies. Zionist attendees referred to our Kogan Plaza sit-in where we read the names of our martyrs as a “Hamas campus rally,” said that Palestinian students would commit “a bombing” of the Hillel building, and claimed that our actions were “threatening to kill” Jewish students, calling for immediate retribution and expulsion. Instead of defending students from these racist tyrades, Granberg doubled down on the hatred, stating that while she “can’t promise that expulsion will happen [she] wish[es] [she] could.” Further exposing her zionist alignment, she expressed that existing free speech policies were the only thing preventing her from openly waging a fascistic campaign of censorship against Palestinian students. “Would that be something that the FBI would arrest someone for?” she said, “and if the answer is no, then it’s not speech that GW can punish. And, you know, I really wish it were, honestly I really wish it were.”

Student holds a sign reading “GW FUNDS GENOCIDE” at a Kogan Plaza Sit-In on Nov. 9. (Photo: Jelina Liu)

We live in the beating heart of US empire, surrounded by the white pillars of buildings where the war criminals orchestrating Palestinian mass death convene. We attend a university that is deeply integrated into the war machine, whose administrators pocket the money to be made off our families’ corpses. Their attacks on our community are not mistaken outliers that must be corrected, but the intended result of an institution whose financial interests lie in militarism and the zionist lobby. President Granberg, Dean Coleman, and other members of this administration, who extol “the right to free speech” in their statements but express the desire to expel and punish students for it behind closed doors, are shameful disgraces to this school and its community. But we know that GW has been forcibly repressing Palestinians for years, which the Office of Civil Rights is currently investigating, and that the source of this moral rot lies far deeper than our current administrators — it is intrinsic to the nature of the university itself.

When they greedily and shamelessly accept funding from zionist institutions, and refuse to divest from the companies aiding in the killing of their students’ families, the university is not failing — it is doing what it does best as a piece of the war machine. They cannot be separated from the system of imperialism and militarism, because they, too, are the system. So let us not be surprised when they attack and repress us. Let us not be surprised when they trample over their own stated “values” to appease the zionist institutions that line their pockets. The University does not keep us safe because it cannot keep us safe, because their material interests are rooted in the lucrative business that is our people’s oppression.

This same business underlies the entire system of American imperialism, around which our society is organized, and our oppressors are demonstrating, through a coordinated campaign of repression and violence against students, the lengths they will go to protect their bloodstained capital. Universities across the country, including GW, Brandeis, Columbia, and the Florida State University system, have suspended or banned chapters of SJP from campus. The political charlatans of both ruling class parties have united to villainize Palestinian student organizers and pass bills attacking students as supportingterrorists” and synonymizing anti-zionism and anti-semitism. Just over two weeks ago, three Palestinian students in Vermont were shot while wearing keffiyehs in an act of zionist hatred. One of the students, Hisham Awartani, will be paralyzed from the waist down for the rest of his life.

Their injustices threaten to overwhelm us, but we owe it to our martyrs, our prisoners, and the millions of our people still resisting the genocidal zionist occupation to continue the struggle for our people’s liberation. They want you to feel helpless. They want you to believe that you are wrong to demand that your institution stop funding genocide. They want you to be afraid to speak up for fear of their retaliation.

Let us not be deceived. The University thinks that they can crush us by sanctioning students and banning our organization, but what they don’t realize is that this movement is so much larger than one organization or individual, and our growing movement is evidence of the futility of their tactics.

Student protester at George Washington University.

We know this repression represents a weak and desperate institution that fears the growing power of the student movement. These administrations, whose interests are fundamentally opposed to ours, are terrified that we will see through their spiderweb of liberal hypocrisy and fragility and become conscious of our potential collective power. In desperation, GW resorts to panicked repression, but these tactics are backfiring on them. They believe repression can halt our movement in its tracks, but in reality, it is exposing the true nature of their interests and sharpening the contradictions, forcing even the most liberal of students to confront our institution’s brutality and their alignment with the zionist lobby against our community.

As George Jackson, imprisoned Black revolutionary, wrote, “The other bees will understand, they do understand… even those who thought the bear their rightful ruler see him differently when he foams at the mouth, and bites at his own tail.”

We are witnessing a new wave of revolutionary consciousness amongst students who see with more clarity than ever before that the path forward must no longer be in liberal reform, but rather in our ability to build power as a mass movement. Not only do other students see how desperate the administration is to silence us, they are witnessing them fail again and again while we continue to overcome every tool weaponized against us through the power of our coalition and our organizing. Our movement demonstrates to students that we have the ability to protect ourselves and resist repression, and it is only growing. The illusion of hegemony is fading, and it is our duty to replace it with a radical vision of solidarity, resistance, and collective liberation.

As SJP wrote in a November 7 Mondoweiss op-ed, “We understand that liberation will never come from those who profit from ethnic cleansing, imperialism, and militarism. We cannot and will not rely on institutions that dehumanize our community and fund the killing of our people to keep us safe.” So when we shout, “we keep us safe,” we assert that we know our institution will not protect us, and that we are the only ones who can build the power in our community needed to protect and liberate ourselves.

They are losing, and we are winning. They are weak, but we have power. Let their efforts fuel your resolve, because when we, the masses, organize together, we can never be defeated. In the words of Pan-African revolutionary, Kwame Ture, “The secret of life is to have no fear; it’s the only way to function.” Do not lose hope. Do not be afraid. The path to justice and return is walked hand-in-hand, guided by our martyrs, and lit by the undying fire of our people’s resistance.

Liberation, undoubtedly, liberation nears.

*Featured Image: Over 200 GW students walk out of classes and join a sit-in organized by SJP and 11 other organizations on the steps of the university’s main library (Photo: Taytum Wymer)

 

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