On Defense of the Conference at John Jay Over the Question of Palestine


In a statement made in collaboration between Student Council and Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), we formally condemn the cancellation of the Palestinian Lives Conference, scheduled to take place on May 14th, 2022, in commemoration of Nakba Day. The event that included two Palestinian liberation organizations, Within Our Lifetime and Existence is Resistance, began the planning months in advance to educate students and others about the ethnic cleansing behind the establishment of Israeli settler-colonial rule in 1948.

 This was the opening paragraph of a petition sent to John Jay College, a unit of the City University of NY, because this plan day of remembering history was cancelled by the college administration, so once again, the voices of the Palestinian people have been silenced putting a lie to the notion that everyone has a right to be heard. The right that oppressed people be heard and that their history not be denied, has, in fact been denied by the College administration because they were unwilling to unbow their knee to the onslaught of Zionist pressure. Educators profess that all voices be uplifted and yet this liberal clap trap that is pronounced as the standard that educators should seek, was not only shown for its hypocrisy, but it was an incredible slap in the face to the Palestinians since the Chancellor of the City University, Chancellor Matos, took a trip to Israel, bringing some of the CUNY presidents with him. The reality is, as shown by the killing of the Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, that closing down the conference is just not enough.  It’s important to quite literally kill the messenger, and so the administration of CUNY, along with the Israeli armed services, will support the narrative that all is well in the Holy Land. But, unlike these preposterous supporters of Israel, the world’s working people are not buying this lie.  There were demonstrations all over the world against this enormous lie and anger broke out in Tunisia with the Tunisian club SFaxien chanting for the murdered Palestinian- American journalist during the match. In London, 3 activists shut down the London headquarters of the Israeli weapons company Elbit Systems, spraying it with red paint, locking access to the entrance. Students in the American University in Cairo stood in support of the Palestinian people.

Shireen Abu Akleh was a brave journalist who was killed in the occupied West Bank telling the truth to the world about the brutal treatment of the Israelis against the Palestinian people.  Her funeral was then attacked by the soldiers who sprayed tear gas and clubbed the mourners. The Israelis can only get away with this because from every angle, the American ruling class supports their repression starting with $3.8 bn dollars in military hardware yearly, and with American educational institutions cutting off debate as they visit the murderers of the Palestinian people. For 74 years, the US government has aided and abetted the Israelis’ displacement of the Palestinians, who have had their land and crops stolen year over year, their books burnt or stolen so it appears that they have no history to speak of, and thus the Israelis can claim that there were never any Palestinians, thus claiming that the land was empty. These tragedies that are spoken about in the American press, these land seizers, are claimed to be disputed territories by the press.

To create any meaningful change, it is clear that the world’s working classes must do what the South African Clover workers who work for an Israeli company has done, that is, they have called for the end of the Apartheid state in Israel, which is exactly what the AFL-CIO and its president, Liz Shuler is unwilling to do. The San Francisco Labor Council tried to entertain a resolution over BDS and the National AFL-CIO western regional director Fernando Losada said: ““Expressions of solidarity [are] always good,” “But in terms of setting international policy, that is the purview of the national AFL-CIO through our organizational processes. There’s an existing policy in solidarity with working people in the Holy Land. It does not include BDS.” According to the Intercept: AFL-CIO leadership cited a procedural rule to tell the San Francisco Labor Council it couldn’t even debate a resolution on BDS.(https://www.jweekly.com/2021/09/13/bds-now-off-the-table-for-san-francisco-labor-group-leader-says/ The AFL-CIO is complicit in the murder of Shireen because Shuler and Weingarten met with the leader of the Israeli Labor Party and Shuler sent a letter to the San Francisco Labor Council saying that delegates could not discuss a boycott of Israel.

The interior minister of Israel is a member of the Labor Party, who supported the murder of the journalist, and the Labor Party supports the Apartheid state and Liz Shuler supports the state of Israel. Thus, instead of being in solidarity with the Palestinians, US labor has taken the side of the oppressor

In fact, the whole leadership has historically been a shill for American imperialism and thus has been a supporter of the South African apartheid state as well. The workers in SA have taken a strong stand against Israel since they understand all too well what it meant to live in an apartheid state before 1994.  Since Israel was a firm supporter of the white regime in SA, they sold them arms to repel any sort of revolt on the part of the SA masses. Now Clover management is calling for the replacement of the SA workers by Palestinian workers who will milk the cows and send the bottles to  SA for distribution, effectively replacing SA workers with Palestinians who will no doubt be asked to take lower wages. American workers must raise the stakes by opposing the leadership of their unions and defend their comrades in SA who are speaking up against the repression of the Palestinians. In addition, letters should be sent to the Chancellor and a petition already circulating needs to be supported. https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLScN4jpbdTo_GT46qLebuxXCXMEQPfpRRgDI3mKa9nTy2J-gEg/viewform 

 While the Palestinian people are being brutalized, their lands seized by settlers, their homes are being torn down, the world’s working class is footing the bill. The capitalist system is headed for a crash, inflation is at its highest in years, workers are being made homeless and the pandemic rages on without any end in sight, and yet this capitalist class, while refusing to provide health care to its citizens, has instead provided $3.8 bn to the Israeli government year after year.  Our stake is joined with the Palestinian victims of this genocidal state who can only win when the world’s working people step up to support them, which they now seem to be doing. Please join with them in this fight. Sign the petition, but organize in your workplaces, in your schools or wherever you can to shut down this apartheid state while moving against capitalism which will bring only more war and destruction to the environment and the world’s masses of people.

Carol Lang

Adjunct Professor, BCC, CUNY