Over the past few weeks, The Argus spoke to leaders and members of four activist groups that confront the Israel-Palestine conflict: Wesleyan United with Israel, J Street U, Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), and Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP). In doing so, we sought to understand the state of Israel-Palestine activism on campus, the tension that has surfaced in its past, the issues with which it deals in the present, and the conversations it hopes to continue in the future. Read the full article here.

Wesleyan Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP)

Founding: JJ Mitchell ’15 and Carina Kurban ’14 in fall 2011.

Current leaders: N/A; SJP is horizontal in structure.

Presence on campus: According to its OrgSync page description, “Students for Justice in Palestine is a group of socially conscious and politically aware students and faculty committed to voicing the often-silenced Palestinian narrative. The group aims to spread awareness on campus of the history of Palestine, Zionism as a colonial project, and the everyday occupation of Palestinians. The group believes in the importance of humanizing all those involved in the conflict. The group does not specifically fight for either a one-state or a two-state solution, but rather, whatever solution stems from the guarantee of protected human rights for all Palestinians. The group is a non-hierarchically structured community that aim to be inclusive, understanding, and yet recalcitrant in fighting for justice for Palestinians inside Israel, in the West Bank, in the Gaza strip, and in Diaspora worldwide.”

Affiliated with larger organization? Yes. According to sjpnational.org, “National Students for Justice in Palestine (NSJP) is a grassroots network composed of students and recent graduates which provides resources and support to Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) chapters on university campuses and the U.S. movement for Palestinian rights and self-determination more broadly.”

From mission statement of larger organization: “We believe that our mission as students living in a free democracy is to promote the cause of justice and speak out against oppression….We believe that in order to resist structural oppression, we must embody the principles and ideals we envision for a just society, and that we must stand against homophobia, sexism, racism, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, classism, colonialism and bigotry and discrimination in any form.”

More information: sjpnational.org, freepalestinewesleyan@gmail.com, Facebook page (Wesleyan Students For Justice in Palestine).


Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) at Wesleyan

Founded: Yael Horowitz ’17 and others in the 2014-2015 academic year.

Current leaders: N/A; “We don’t really have positions,” Horowitz said.

Presence on campus: “We have weekly meetings on Tuesdays at 8pm in Usdan 108,” Horowitz said. “Those meetings are both agenda-based and discussion-based, so we bring different texts or different ideas and talk about them. We’ve also done a few events in conjunction with New Haven’s JVP. We brought Rabbis for Human Rights—the head Rabbi for them—to campus last semester. This semester, in conjunction with them, [we hosted] a filmmaker from Gaza. The film was called ‘Where Do the Birds Fly,’ so [the director] came and showed her film and talked. We also hosted JVP Shabbat, which was [on February 27th], and it was a shabbat service but from a JVP perspective.”

Affiliated with larger organization? Yes. “[Jewish Voice for Peace] is a national organization that has both city chapters and campus chapters, and Wesleyan is in the process of becoming an official chapter of JVP, but we’re able to operate under the name until we’re officially a chapter,” Horowitz said.

From mission statement of larger organization: “Jewish Voice for Peace members are inspired by Jewish tradition to work together for peace, social justice, equality, human rights, respect for international law, and a U.S. foreign policy based on these ideals. JVP opposes anti-Jewish, anti-Muslim, and anti-Arab bigotry and oppression. JVP seeks an end to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem; security and self-determination for Israelis and Palestinians; a just solution for Palestinian refugees based on principles established in international law; an end to violence against civilians; and peace and justice for all peoples of the Middle East.”

More information: jewishvoiceforpeace.org, yhorowitz@wesleyan.edu


Wesleyan United with Israel (Wes with Israel)

Founded: Aviv Fraiman ’15 and Rebecca Markell ’14 in February 2013.

Current leaders: Rachel Alpert ’18, Elisa Greenberg ’18, Matthew Renetzky ’18, and Rebecca Sussman ’18.

Presence on campus: Under new leadership, Wes with Israel has published a Wespeak in the Argus (“Why We Stand with Israel,” October 2014) and run a late-night Israeli culture event. In the future, its members hope to host panels and film screenings, as well as open lines of communication among the four groups on campus.

Affiliated with larger organization? No.

Mission statement: According to its OrgSync page, “Wesleyan United with Israel is a pro-Israel group that is focused on spreading awareness regarding the situation in the Middle East. This group is also interested in celebrating Israeli cultural events and holidays.”

More information: weswithisrael@gmail.com, Facebook page (Wesleyan United With Israel).


J Street U at Wesleyan

Founded: Becca Casper-Johnson ’15 and others in the 2012-2013 academic year. It was preceded by Yala Wes, which had no national affiliation.

Current leaders: Maya Berkman ’16, Rebecca Casper-Johnson ’15, and Emily Greenspan ’16. “It’s a pretty loose leadership,” Berkman said. “Anyone who wants to be involved can be as involved as they want to be.”

Presence on campus: “It’s taken many different forms different semesters, based on the interests of the students running the group and our perceptions of what’s needed on campus,” Berkman said. “We’ve brought various speakers, [we] brought Breaking the Silence last year, we brought Gershom Gorenberg, [and] various academics and activists on this issue, so that’s a lot of our programming—these very specific programs or lectures. We do film screenings, and we’ve also been very intentional about opening spaces for dialogue. Just last week we had a teach-in, and different students prepared different conversations. One was about the Israeli elections, one was about exploring whether or not Israel is an apartheid state.”

Affiliated with larger organization? Yes. J Street U at Wesleyan is a chapter of J Street U, which is a branch of J Street.

From mission statement of larger organization: “J Street U is the student organizing arm of J Street, the political home for pro-Israel, pro-peace Americans. We are a nationwide movement of campus chapters advocating and educating on colleges and universities, in our communities and on Capitol Hill for vigorous and sustained American leadership in facilitating a negotiated, two-state resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

We are deeply committed to ensuring Israel’s future as the democratic homeland of the Jewish people, which can only be secured through a two-state resolution.”

More information: jstreetu.org, Facebook page (J Street U at Wesleyan), mberkman@wesleyan.edu

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