UC Santa Barbara’s Students for Justice in Palestine held an informational meeting for the campus community on Palestinian struggle. This was part of the organization’s actions in solidarity with Palestine following Israel ordering a siege of the Gaza Strip on Oct. 9.
Various members of the UCSB community filled the meeting site for the hour-long discussion.
On Oct. 7, a militant group based in the Gaza Strip, referred to as Hamas, launched a series of surprise attacks killing around 700 Israeli civilians. Following the attacks, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu formally declared war on Hamas and ordered a siege of the Gaza strip, halting supplies like water and killing at least 2,778 and wounding 9,700 Palestinians.
Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) requested anonymity for all individuals who spoke at the meeting and are involved in the organization, citing safety concerns. The reported events were also not photographed to protect the privacy of SJP members and affiliates.
SJP at UCSB is a political activist organization of students, faculty and staff that work to “promote justice, human rights, liberation, and self-determination for the Palestinian people,” its organization description read.
“Many of our members are grieving and feel no safety on campus,” SJP said in a statement to the Nexus.
The event followed a demonstration on Oct. 12 in honor of Kuffiyeh Thursday at El Centro building on the library steps and a Sunset Walk for Palestine demonstration in collaboration with the Lebanese Social Club that was canceled for safety reasons.
“We just want to stress that these are very scary times for Palestinians and Black and Brown indigenous communities in general,” the statement continued. “Palestinians are being dehumanized both globally and on campus and want to give space to Palestinians to drive despite their fight for liberation [and] being attacked for the last 75 years.”
The presentation began with providing context to Israel and Palestine, covering topics like Ghassan Kanafani — a Palestinian author and leading member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine who was assassinated in 1972 — along with settler colonialism and zionism.
The presenter labeled the Palestinian struggle as a “war on language and rhetoric,” describing the current struggle as the enforcement of settler colonialism through a system of apartheid. They then defined settler colonialism as the invasion of foreign people under an imperial power and establishing settlements that displace Indigenous people, and defined Zionism as establishment of the Jewish state on the ruins of the ethnic cleansing of Palestinian people.
The meeting then moved into discussing presentation slides made by SJP at CSU Northridge on the siege of the Gaza Strip.
The presenter said the siege of the Gaza Strip is the result of Israel calling war on Hamas but targeting Palestinian people, citing a blast that killed hundreds of people at a Gaza City hospital on Oct. 17.
This presentation was followed by a discussion on the role of students in supporting Palestine, starting with showcasing an anonymous Google form to report incidents of harassment.
During this public comment period, audience members asked how to better gather in solidarity and how to speak up about the discourse while protecting their physical safety and mental well-being. Community members spoke of instances of being afraid to speak up in classrooms and other campus settings, as well as feeling unsafe on campus after the postings of pro-Israeli posters along Pardall Road.
Discourse on Israel and Palestine has historically been controversial at UCSB. UCSB Associated Students resolutions have called for UCSB and the UC Regents to divest from companies that profit off of alleged human rights violations by the Israeli government against Palestinians have been presented to the A.S. Senate annually. UCSB is the only undergraduate campus in the UC to not pass a resolution on divestment.
Audience members made suggestions on community building and mutual protection. Community members also promoted various educational resources, upcoming events to attend and upcoming activist demonstrations for community members to get involved in.
SJP chapters across eight UC campuses also published a statement to the UC Board of Regents, condemning the public statement made by Regents Chair Richard Leib and UC President Michael Drake regarding the Israel-Hamas war.
“Communities across all University of California campuses unequivocally reject and condemn the discriminatory statement that was made,” the statement by SJP read. “The political stance that the UC system has chosen to take during this time puts Palestinian students across all campuses in immediate danger.”
The statement by SJP said the statement by Leib and Drake “fail[s] to recognize the plight of the Palestinian people” and shows that “the UC system has totally neglected and is complicit in the ongoing occupation of Palestine.”
“Our hearts are heavy in the face of the horrific attack on Israel over the weekend, which involved the loss of many innocent lives and the abduction of innocent hostages, including children and the elderly,” the statement by Leib and Drake read. “This was an act of terrorism, launched on a major Jewish holiday.”
SJP compiled a list of demands to the UC Board of Regents in response to the statement by Leib and Drake, which includes a formal apology from the board, an acknowledgement of Palestinian lives and “Israel as an apartheid state” and for the UC system to divest from corporations “that profit from the illegal occupation of Palestine.”
“To make this statement on behalf of the UC System completely disregards the lives of thousands of community members who are deeply affected by the ongoing occupation of Palestine,” the statement by SJP read. “Palestinians and allies across all UC campuses will continue to support Palestinians, their right to resistance, and their right to return.”
A version of this article appeared on p. 1 of the Oct. 19, 2023, print edition of the Daily Nexus.