Columbia Students for Justice in Palestine (C-SJP)
Right to Education Week: Mock Israeli Checkpoint Action
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For Immediate Release
New York, NY, November 18 – On November 18th, 2010 from 12pm to 2pm, Columbia University Students for Justice in Palestine (C-SJP)—a diverse group of students, faculty, staff, and community members—constructed a theatrical mock Israeli checkpoint at the Low Library steps at Columbia University. Three students dressed as Israeli soldiers lined up dozens of students throughout the afternoon, blindfolded them, and forced them to sit on their knees as a symbolic gesture to portray the hardships faced by Palestinian students. Those playing the role of the Palestinian students had tape over their mouths to reflect how Israel silences Palestinian voices by withholding their right to education.
To counter our direct action, five Zionist student groups erected a wall with a sign that read: “C-SJP rejects normalization,” in response to C-SJP signing on to the student anti-normalization call in early 2010. C-SJP maintains a firm stance that this is not a ‘conflict’ that requires ‘dialogue’. It is colonization and a grave human rights issue that begs urgent international mobilization. Zionist students also wore t-shirts that stated: “Checkpoints aren’t ideal…but for now they are necessary.” “Security concerns are not an excuse for human rights violations. If checkpoints are erected solely for the sake of security, why do they not lie solely on the border with Israel?” stated Yasmina Raiani, a member of C-SJP and participant in the checkpoint.
The mock checkpoint was part of Right to Education Week (R2E), an international week of action that was called for by students in Palestine (http://right2edu.birzeit.edu/). Responding to their request, C-SJP, in partnership with other student groups both at Columbia and in New York City stand in solidarity with their Palestinian peers.
An estimated 57% of the student population regularly crosses one or more checkpoints to reach their university and to return home. At the checkpoints students face physical abuse, violence and long delays that hinder their educational performance. 64% of students reported being physically abused by an Israeli soldier. Saa’ad, a third year Birzeit University student, echoed this sentiment, “At one of the checkpoints on my way home to Nablus…an Israeli soldier asked me to open my bag which had nothing in it but my books. They detained me at the checkpoint for over an hour just because I am a student, and before they let me go they tore up my books.”
Though the direct action was designed to draw attention to the daily indignity Palestinian students endure at checkpoints, Right to Education Week is also meant to highlight other factors that affect students’ education, including detention and harassment, economic isolation, movement restrictions, damage to school property and resources, forced closures of schools and institutions, as well as confiscation of property, and restrictions on foreign staff and students. Israel’s disregard for the value of education in Palestine was especially prominent during the assault on Gaza in 2008, during which the Israeli army bombed 32 United Nations run schools. C-SJP holds events year round in solidarity with the Palestinian people and organizes around the Palestinian civil society call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions.