In a boost for the academic boycott of Israel, students at America's Georgetown University have successfully blocked funding for a trip to the occupation state and cut all institutional links to a group called itrek. The pro-Israel group organises "propaganda trips to apartheid Israel" and is said to have received funding direct from the Israeli government.
A coalition of graduate and undergraduate students at Georgetown led the campaign, saying that it was carried out in solidarity with the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. The non-violent BDS seeks an end to Israel's decades-long occupation and system of apartheid.
The Graduate Student Government (GradGov) at Georgetown was expected to earmark $30,000 to pay for trips to Israel. Students intervened at the last minute and manage to block the move. The sum of money was to be paid from the student budget sourced from tuition fees paid by all students enrolled at Georgetown University. Between 50 and 100 students were expected to take part in such visits to the settler-colonial state. The programme is largely financed by itrek and is said to cost $250,000 per one-week trip.
Although the trip is no longer going to be paid for by student fees, it is still expected to go ahead in a private capacity with no involvement from Georgetown.
In a "victory statement" the students said that their opposition to the trip was based primarily on the fact that its purpose "is to whitewash the Occupation of Palestine"; that the destination of the trip was to an "Apartheid state that enforces military rule on millions of Palestinians and occupies their land"; and the fact that the $30,000 was going to subsidise a trip for GradGov senators.
The students said that they rejected the narrative promoted by itrek. "There are no 'both sides' in Palestine," they said, rejecting what they say is a typical argument used by many liberals to whitewash Israel's occupation and human rights abuse.
"There is continued Israeli settlement expansion, which forcibly expels Palestinians, takes away their lands and demolishes their homes," the students explained. "There is Israeli Apartheid, which dictates the lives of millions of Palestinians in the West Bank, at the mercy of the Israeli military and settlers. There is the Israeli siege on Gaza, which murdered hundreds of Palestinians who participated in the Great March of Return. There is the racist Israeli Nation-State Law, which declares Israel an exclusively Jewish state. There is a reality of asymmetry, the reality of a power dynamic that the government of the United States enforces through its funding of the Israeli Occupation."
The BDS movement welcomed the news. "We salute the graduate and undergraduate students at Georgetown University who successfully prevented $30,000 in student funding from being used for an itrek propaganda trip to apartheid Israel."