New York — After a deadly uptick in military action in Israel and occupied territories, hundreds of Palestinian people and about a dozen Israeli citizens are left dead, and many Palestinians have been forced out of their homes as Israel expands its occupied territories.
We asked a member of NYU’s Students for Justice in Palestine for her take on how U.S. youth have responded, how BLM has affected the Palestinian movement and how social media has changed how we get information on the Israel-Palestine conflict.
She spoke to us anonymously out of fear of online harassment.
Is it just me, or does it seem like young people in the U.S. are much more concerned about what’s happening to Palestinian people than ever before?
I've never seen as much interest in learning about Palestine and organizing around Palestine than this very moment right now. And the last time that there was a big kind of aggression on Palestine was 2014. I think it's a kind of conjunction of the organizing that's being done on the ground by Palestinian-led organizations, Jewish-led organizations. And also the Black Lives Matter protests from last summer, like mobilized a lot of people.
How, exactly, has this movement been affected by BLM?
People learned how to organize and how to mobilize. Last summer, I think a large number of people who weren't organizing before learned that they could show up to protest and they could bring their friends and they could bring water bottles to keep protesters hydrated. And they could help in all these different ways and they could post about it, stay informed. And I'm seeing people kind of recycling the same tactics now in caring about Palestine.
Do you see similarities between the need for BLM and a need for the Palestinian movement?
The two struggles are very much linked, like there's a lot of support for Palestine in the Black Liberation Movement and vice versa. If people have been reading more about various social justice issues over the past year, they might have encountered things like Palestine or just like U.S. funding for bad regimes like this.
How has social media changed how we get information about what’s happening?
What pushed a lot of people to go out on the streets last summer was seeing the video of George Floyd dying. And probably what's pushing a lot of people now to think about what's going on in Palestine is seeing videos of bombings in Gaza, seeing videos of [Palesenians] walking around the rubble of their homes, seeing videos of people being evicted from their houses. These are things that mainstream media, especially in the United States, rarely shows.
What would you say to young folks who feel powerless?
I think protests are important because they make noise, they make headlines. And we've rarely seen so many numbers going out and protesting for Palestine. And also, it can help you kind of feel like you're not alone in the cause. And a central thing to do if you're a student in the United States is to join your college's SJP or Students for Justice in Palestine. If it doesn't exist, create one. Call up other groups from other colleges, send them DMs, ask them tips on how to organize and push for your university to be BDS friendly.
We have to remember that part of dismantling South African apartheid and building up support for the cause happened on college campuses in the U.S. And and the U.S. is the biggest funder of Israel and its military occupation of Palestine.
Lastly, what are your thoughts on how President Joe Biden has handled this? Specifically his initial opposition to the UN’s ceasefire letter?
It's deeply unsurprising. It's kind of the same as like any U.S. president, really. He's just continuing the standard. Biden tries to present himself as this kind of humane person who cares about everyone and cares about children dying but still won't accept the ceasefire.
One thing that we're seeing in the Biden administration, that's kind of unprecedented, is several Congress members being vocally pro-ceasefire and also against arms sales to Israel and against U.S. funding to Israel, which is very rare and is very encouraging. And I think that can mobilize a lot of people from society to see that change can happen even within huge establishments like the Democratic Party.