By the students, for the students of Central Washington University

The Observer

By the students, for the students of Central Washington University

The Observer

By the students, for the students of Central Washington University

The Observer

The Palestinian Plight: An examination of how our calls are silenced

Feb. 1 marks the 117th day of the ongoing genocide in Palestine. The most recent International Court of Justice ruling, of the South Africa case against Israel, ruled that Israel is carrying out genocidal actions against the Palestinian people, as said by the Guardian.

Despite this ruling and public outcry for a ceasefire, this government body, the Associated Students of CWU (ASCWU), decided to silence my proposed letter in solidarity with Palestine. 

This letter was silenced on the basis that it was only a measure taken for me, and ASCWU chose to prioritize the feelings of Jewish and Israeli students by assuming they support what’s happening in Gaza. Sure, it’s not the politics students want to see, obviously not the politics Palestinians want to see and not the politics Jewish youth want to see either. However, this shouldn’t be the central issue at hand, the ongoing genocide should be. 

On Jan. 22 the letter was set to go through a round of voting to approve its language at the General Assembly (GA) meeting. At this point, the representative of the First-Generation Student Organization (FGSO), Eliasib Alvarado, abruptly made a motion to reject the letter. The motion to reject the letter was approved by the majority of eligible voting members of ASCWU. As it stands, the student government is now forced to rewrite the letter using neutral language, destroying the sanctity of the original meaning of the letter.  

After obtaining the meeting minutes* from this GA meeting, I am stunned at the narrative that dominated the conversation that took place while I was gone. According to the public meeting minutes, once the discussion of the letter opened up, Senate Speaker Charles Johnson immediately expressed his disapproval of the letter stating, “it favors one side and no one should feel the feeling of not being outed by the ASCWU.” This was followed by congruence from other Senate members. FGSO representative Alvarado then made the motion to reject the letter, which was seconded by Senate Speaker Johnson. After the motion to reject the letter, Senator for Athletics Sean Gordon had this to say, “How many requests did we get to put out a letter, how many people are we going to make irritated or are we just doing this to please someone’s request?”

When reached out for comment, Gordon said this: “The statement didn’t come out as cleanly as I wanted it to. I was simply wondering how many members of the general student body had approached Student Senate about an interest in writing the letter, because I had not received any information from any of my constituents that they expressed the desire for us to put out a statement. So I was wondering if we’d have any additional members of the student body reach out and express a desire for us to release a statement.”

When reached out for comment, Johnson said this: “My disapproval was never for the letter itself. After long detailed conversations with the Senate, we want to continue having these conversations around the letter so that we can get one passed. We found that there was potential for isolation of even a few students, and as a Senate speaker, my job is to make sure that all students feel represented and safe on this campus, which is always my goal.”

Later, at the Equity and Services Council (ESC) meeting on Jan. 26, I and a few other people in support of the reinstatement of the old letter came to encourage other ESC organizations to support us. Once we opened up this discussion, Alvarado had this to say: “It’s a really big topic and I am the one who motioned to strike the original letter of support…This is a polarizing issue, and I agree with Senate Speaker Johnson that the letter won’t affect people other than CWU students,” according to the meeting minutes.

When reflecting on these events I can’t help but notice the inherent contradictions of their reasoning, and emphasis of the realpolitik at play by equating all Jewish and/or Israeli people to Zionism as a part of their justification to shoot down this letter. 

I find it odd how quickly this decision was made and how the voices of the CWU Jewish community on campus were assumed. If they actually talked to the CWU Jewish youth community they would likely be told that college-educated American Jewish youth overwhelmingly support a ceasefire and often are leaders of their own growing organizations such as Jewish Voice for Peace and IfNotNow. 

This understanding is even recognized by CNN, when they released an article highlighting the overwhelming Jewish youth presence at a march and sit-in that took place at Capitol Hill in support of Palestine.

The claim used by the representative of FGSO isn’t original. But instead, these are ideas that we all have heard before. The notion that this letter is “polarizing” to Jewish and/or Israeli students presupposes that the ongoing genocide should take a backseat to their own disingenuous inclusivity “ideals.”

It’s this kind of realpolitiks that leads to the widely accepted misconceptions that hijack progress in the political sphere. They shy away from presiding over anything they deem as “political” even though the ASCWU body is inherently political. However, even if we operate under this foolish logic, my response is that this issue transcends politics. 

Viewing the Palestinian identity or the identity of anyone marginalized as political tokens to be exchanged effectively reduces the value of their plight. 

At best, the majority of ASCWU ironically missed the call to action of the original statement, calling for us to remain informed on the ongoing genocide. At worst, they’re aware of the horrors of the genocide and still maliciously shot it down.

How can the support of Palestine, the support of an immediate ceasefire and demands to stay informed on the ongoing genocide, equate to the support against Jewish and/or Israeli students?

As a hypothetical example, if America and members of its government called for an all-white Christian nationalist state and ran on the premise of ethnicity, conducting airstrikes, displacing that subset of its people, created a siege preventing their right to free movement, restricted access to their necessities, demolished their crucial infrastructure like, hospitals, schools, college campuses, religious sites, calorie counted an isolated subset population and denied the rights of the dead by demolishing their cemeteries, we’d be enraged and call this hypothetical state fascist. Dually we wouldn’t hesitate to call their actions ethnic displacement, apartheid and genocide. So why can’t we turn around and realize this is the case with Israel?  

Instead, conversation is dominated by people marginalizing what’s happening in Palestine. Where they conveniently can hide behind foolish conflations that being in support of Palestine is inherently anti- semitic. This conflation has no standing once it is recognized that Israel does not represent all Jewish people and therefore Palestine is not at war with Jewish people.

In the interest of educating the broader CWU community, especially if the majority of ASCWU expressed an interest not to, the remainder of this piece will historically contextualize events in the past and present as well as provide resources.

While I cannot capture all the details such as the Ottoman control over Palestine, the fall of the Ottoman empire and the transition to British control, I can discuss what I think the three most fundamental events have been to the plight of the Palestinians; those being, the British creation of the Zionist movement, the establishment of the Israeli state in 1948 and what is currently going on.

According to Britannica, the Zionist movement is a political movement that was founded by Theodor Herzl, an Austro-Hungarian thinker. The goal of the Zionist movement was to establish a Jewish state in Palestine and begin coordinating the settlement of Zionists in Palestine. In 1922, Palestine officially became a British mandate. This mandate provided a green light for Zionists to successfully ramp up their colonization efforts. By the end of the British mandate in Palestine, the Zionists had successfully destroyed the homes and villages of hundreds of Palestinians. But, even with this, the Zionist population was not in the majority at the time. 

It is these circumstances that led to the partitioning of Palestine, the expansion of the Zionist state and the Six-Day War that resulted in 800,0000 Palestinians being ethnically cleansed in what is known as the Nakba (the Catastrophe). In 1948, Israel was officially established on the ruins of Palestine according to Decolonize Palestine. After having ethnically cleansed 80% of the Palestinians, the following years would entail Zionist control over the area and the creation of discriminatory ethnocratic laws and policies. The West Bank and Gaza Strip are the only areas that are considered Palestinian territories. These actions would lead to the first and second Intifadas (uprisings), multiple peace agreements being thwarted by Israel, Israel pulling its physical presence out of Gaza after Hamas came into power and Israel creating a blockade around the Gaza strip.

Famously said by The Times of Israel, “For years, Netanyahu propped up Hamas. Now it’s blown up in our faces.” Bibi Netanyahu is the current Prime Minister of Israel, and his far-right fascist government has frequently reframed the conversation of their genocidal acts to the semantics of “defense” against their own doing.

Currently in the West Bank, discriminatory laws are present. According to the Human Rights Watch, Israel is imposing an apartheid system in the West Bank. The siege around Gaza has imprisoned the people of Gaza in what is known as the world’s largest open-air prison. Oct. 7 marks the first day of the ongoing genocide in Palestine after Hamas launched an attack on Israel. Since then, according to Al Jazeera, over 26,000 Palestinians have been killed, a majority of those killed being women and children and over 360,000 homes and residential buildings have been destroyed. Israel has bombed UN schools, religious sites and hospitals. Israel has restricted the overwhelming majority of  humanitarian aid in Gaza as it is currently imposing a genocide on them.

To help with the dire situation, you can donate to charities like the Palestinian Children’s Relief Fund (PCRF) and the Islamic Relief USA (IRUSA). You can also call and email your representatives from your district and call for an immediate ceasefire. 

*The quotes from the meeting minutes are not verbatim, and are summarized as per the ASCWU Student Senate Administrative Assistant. They were obtained from ASCWU’s President. 

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