UC Santa Barbara Students for Justice in Palestine held a vigil in honor of Palestine and the suspended Opportunity for All initiative on Feb. 16, in collaboration with Jewish Voice for Peace and UC Divest Coalition at UC Santa Barbara.

Anushka Ghosh Dastidar / Daily Nexus

Approximately 50 attendees gathered in a circle at the lawn near Storke Tower around a vigil of flowers and candles, as well as a list of names and images of Palestinian victims. The vigil also honored Opportunity for All — a campaign for undocumented students to have equal access to university employment — that was suspended for a year by the UC Regents in January. The collaboration aimed to unite students grieving the two issues and provide a space to mobilize.

The names of individuals in attendance have been kept anonymous by request, for safety reasons. 

Members of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) began the event by reading the poems “This Bread Was Born, This Bread Was Killed,” by Basman Aldirawi and “I Saw, Father, What You Saw,” by Ahlam Bsharat.

An SJP representative then delivered a ground report, reading out statistics from the ongoing crisis in Gaza.

“It’s the 132nd day of genocide. Four months, several holidays, 18 weekends, two midterms, a final, 2438 massacres, 35,176 martyrs, 28,176 martyrs reached the hospital. 12,300 child martyrs, 8,400 women murdered, 340 medical worker murders,” they read.

“This is a genocide that is being televised. I struggle because the capacity of the English language to describe the horrors unfolding in Gaza is insufficient. Our eyes are pulled from the scenes of devastation which are always positioned as justified in the pursuit of evil, and on to the next.”

An SJP member shared several realities faced by Gaza residents, detailing the poor hygienic and dietary conditions resulting from Israeli bombings and supply blockades.

“Doctors are disinfecting wounds with vinegar because they have run out of alcohol. Children wrapped by their parents in dirty bed sheets because they have run out of body bags. Survivors divided a bag of dates among a dozen people over days because the bakeries and grocery stores have been bombed.”

A member of Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) then spoke about the joint struggle of freeing Palestine and supporting Opportunity for All, and urged students to unite in their grief.

“That path to determine what the university invests in is not an inevitable or passive course. They have made and keep making an active choice,” they said. “They have [chosen] to invest in militarism, imperialism, colonialism and structures of white supremacy. We must invest in our communities and in public resources.”

“Together we hold the heavy weight of our shared grief and loss and together we organize with a collective love for liberation.”

The secretaries of UC Divest Coalition at UCSB shared a message to the UC Regents condemning them for funneling money into weapons manufacturing, funding the Thirty  Meter Telescope on the sacred Hawaiian summit Mauna Kea and hiding behind a militarized UC Police Department.

“Today we demand you hear us. While you line your pockets and grow your investments, let us remind you it is our tuition dollars you sit atop. We the students demand you listen. You funnel our money into weapons manufacturing but [are] funding the genocide of Palestinians as we speak. As of 2023, $7 million of our tuition money [goes] directly to Israel.”

“We demand the Regents cut all ties with corporations, projects and partnerships that advance war and repress and attack our communities,” they continued.

Attendees were also encouraged to write messages on a banner dedicated to the children in Palestine.

SJP members ended the event by leading the group in call-and-response chants and encouraged attendees to write messages on a banner dedicated to the children of Palestine. 

“UC Regents you can’t hide, you’re financing genocide. UC Regents, what do you say, how many deaths did you fund today,” they chanted. “UC Regents you will learn, invest in students the money you earn. Not another nickel, not another dime, no more money for UC crimes.” 

A version of this article appeared on p. 3 of the Feb. 22, 2024, print edition of the Daily Nexus.

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Anushka Ghosh Dastidar
Anushka Ghosh Dastidar (she/her) is the Community Outreach News Editor for the 2023-24 school year. Previously, Ghosh Dastidar was the Assistant News Editor for the 2022-2023 school year. She can be reached at anushkagd@dailynexus.com or news@dailynexus.com.