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A sign at a student sit-in calling for the University of Michigan to divest from corporations that work with the Israeli military.
(Image by (Photo: Students Allied for Freedom and Equality/Facebook)) Details DMCA
Following a week-long sit-in by the University of Michigan Students Allied For Equality (SAFE), an obstinate Central Student Government (CSG) council agreed to bring the group's resolution on divesting from corporations involved in human rights abuses in the occupied Palestinian territories to a vote. I appeared as SAFE's guest speaker for the March 25 debate, addressing as many as 600 students packed into an auditorium while hundreds more waited outside. In an electric atmosphere, SAFE members and supporters rose to defend the resolution against a parade of pro-Israel students and professors rattling off well-worn talking points.
From Suha Najjar's blistering indictment of institutional anti-Palestinian racism to Angela Folasade's impassioned repudiation of cynical pro-Israel attempts to co-opt African-American narratives [at 4:30] to Andrew Dallack's impromptu clinic on international law [at 3:30], SAFE orchestrated one of the most powerful displays of student activism I have witnessed on any American campus. Their work should be a model for all future divestment initiatives.
While in Ann Arbor, I was also able to witness the escalating tactics of pro-Israel forces engaged in a desperate but determined fighting retreat. Under the influence of a zealous cast of communal elders and with a powerful, astroturfed political apparatus at their disposal, pro-Israel forces on campus initiated a campaign of subterfuge and manufactured persecution designed to intimidate and silence students inclined toward Palestine solidarity activism. It was a disturbing spectacle to behold, especially at such an intimate distance.
During SAFE's week-long sit-in, a close-knit group of pro-Israel students filed a series of incendiary accusations against SAFE members, accusing them in formal reports to university administrators of delivering anti-Semitic tirades laced with antiquated terms like "kike" and "dirty Jew." At the same time, Facebook profiles belonging to SAFE members were invaded by a mysterious account named "ZPC Viper Matrix." Personal information of SAFE members, their families, and Palestine rights supporters across the country including American Studies Association President-elect Lisa Duggan have appeared on the Viper Matrix Facebook page, often in distorted form alongside derogatory comments, prompting several students to cancel their accounts.