In defiance against attempts at censorship, Students for Justice in Palestine activists at Pitzer College in Claremont California will erect a mock Apartheid Wall to educate their campus about the Israeli occupation and how Israeli policies confiscate Palestinian land and separate Palestinian families and communities.
Here is their press release explaining the school’s attempt to censor SJP’s freedom of speech:
Claremont, CA — On Tuesday, March 31st, Pitzer Students for Justice in Palestine will display a mock Israeli apartheid wall on campus to raise awareness about Palestinian suffering and the realities of the Israeli occupation, as well as to stimulate conversation around necessary changes in global and domestic human rights policy. SJP is continuing with this demonstration despite attempts by the administration to censor free speech.
SJP Member Dan Solomon explains, “Pitzer College prides itself on ‘social responsibility’, ‘interdisciplinary learning’, and ‘student engagement’ so we hope that the administration will not interfere with our attempt to display those values in our political demonstration. We intend to educate our campus about the Israeli apartheid wall and to build the movement pressuring Israel to respect basic human rights.”
SJP is dismayed at apparent attempts by Pitzer College to stop the display of the wall. When a group of SJP members met with the Pitzer Dean of Students about their plan to display the apartheid wall, the Dean told them he was concerned someone may attempt to damage the wall or “burn it down.” He told them that someone would inevitably submit a formal complaint about the wall being ‘discriminatory.’ He also told SJP they would need approval from the Campus Aesthetics Committee. SJP’s proposal was rejected without formal explanation.
On Friday March 27, Pitzer warned SJP that their plans to proceed with the mock wall would be in blatant defiance of College policy. This is despite the Campus Demonstration’s policy statementthat Pitzer “respects the rights of free speech and peaceful assembly and supports their exercise.”
“We hope Pitzer College thinks twice before violating its own policies to censor SJP’s advocacy for Palestinian rights,” said Liz Jackson, staff attorney with Palestine Solidarity Legal Support, whowrote to Pitzer officials Monday. “As it should, Pitzer claims to embrace a compelling interest in unfettered inquiry and the collective search for knowledge. Under California law, there can be no ‘Palestine exception’ to this policy. The accusation that displaying a mock Israeli apartheid wall would target Jewish students is an attempt to divert the conversation away from the human rights policy issues SJP is attempting to raise; SJP’s activity targets the Israeli state, not any individual. In response to recent incidents of deplorable anti-Semitic yik yak comments on campus, SJP emphasizes, “As a group advocating for equality, universal human rights, and collective liberation, SJP strongly condemns any form of oppression on the basis of race, gender identity, sexual orientation, religious affiliation, national origin, or disability,” explains Solomon, “We strongly condemn any form of anti-Semitism on campus.”
Motivated by the same opposition to racism, SJP will display the mock Israeli apartheid wall, in the hopes of educating the Pitzer campus about the Israeli system of race-based separation and subjugation of Palestinians. “If you agree with SJP, and the International Court of Justice, that an apartheid wall violates basic human rights, we invite you to join Pitzer SJP in dismantling the wall at the end the day,” said Solomon.