The student council in one of America’s most prestigious universities has approved a statement denouncing Israel for “genocide”, “ethnic cleansing” and “apartheid” in occupied Palestine. The Yale College Council, the undergraduate student government, approved the statement earlier this week. The vote was 8-3 in favour, with four abstentions.
“As students at one of the most privileged academic institutions in the world, we must call out injustice wherever it may occur,” said the students. “We stand against the discriminatory application of the law that strips Palestinians of basic rights. We stand against the violent expulsions of those living under occupation in Sheikh Jarrah.”
The statement also connected legitimate Palestinian resistance to Israel’s occupation with the civil rights movements in the US which saw Black Americans work to dismantle racial segregation during the 1950s and 60s. Many see a clear parallel in racialised segregation between Jews and non-Jews in Israel and the then legal racism in the American south. The recent release of reports by prominent human rights groups declaring Israel to be an apartheid state has reinforced this view.
“We call upon Yale students to recognise the connections between America’s domestic racial oppression and its imperial oppression of people of colour worldwide,” the students continued. “Just as Israel’s military enforces the apartheid system against Palestinians, the US police enforces the system of white supremacy against Black Americans.”
The statement was adopted a month-and-a-half after an open letter was released on 14 May by a collective of Jewish Yale students demanding accountability for Israel. Over 50 student organisations are said to have endorsed the letter, including the Yale College Democrats, the Yale Women’s Centre and the Yale Literary Magazine.
The letter called on Yale University to join the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign. Inspired by the success of the anti-apartheid movement against white domination in South Africa, BDS seeks to end Israel’s apartheid regime which has installed Jewish domination in Palestine.
Concerns were also raised over the growing misuse of allegations of anti-Semitism to silence critics of Israel. “We envision a Judaism that is inherently anti-racist and anti-Zionist,” said the letter. “We will not allow our Jewishness and our history of struggle to be weaponised in order to commit pogroms, ethnic cleansing and genocide.”