Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and supporting community members at the University of Connecticut organized a demonstration in protest of UConn’s relationship with the state of Israel outside of the Rowe Center for Undergraduate Education on Monday.
The protest was organized in the wake of newly hired interim president Radenka Maric’s Instagram post announcing her trip to Israel, joining state representatives in order to “focus on increasing connections between [Connecticut] and members of Israel’s innovation ecosystem.” The country is known to have substantial technological capital and a high degree of education among Israeli citizens.
Speakers at the protest discussed difficulties of student organization registration for SJP: the fact that most of the University’s study-abroad programs in the Middle East go to Israel, UConn’s consistent neglect of the discontent of Palestinian students and the extensive business and academic relationships the administration holds with Israeli companies and complicit weapon manufacturers. The speakers noted that partnering with these military and Israel-adjacent entities generates more revenue for the administration.
These conditions rightfully deserve our community’s indignation because, as the Daily Campus editorial board has previously discussed, the state of Israel is ethnically cleansing the Palestinian people, in a violent history dating to 1948 when 700,000 — or approximately half of Palestine’s Arab population — were expelled or killed by Israeli military forces. Today, even some Israeli human rights groups have found the state of Israel to maintain a regime of apartheid – systematically denying Palestinians basic human necessities, continuously displacing them through inhumane conditions and extensive settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The wealth and economic capital of the Israeli state, which benefits UConn and Connecticut through various partnerships, is based upon the expropriation of land and resources from Palestinians.
Speakers present on Monday discussed how UConn’s partnership with Israel contradicts the reputation of the Dodd Center as a respected “human rights” institute. This is particularly significant because while partnering with Israel, UConn simultaneously partners with Amnesty International through the human rights institute. Amnesty International has recently joined a long list of international human rights organizations which find the state of Israel as having an Apartheid regime.
What are the UConn administration’s values? Do they support human rights, the grievances of Palestinian students and concerned community members or do they support Israel?
What protesters demonstrated on Monday was that the University frequently appeals to the lowest-common-denominator, which is revenue. Partnership with the Israeli state, Israeli companies, weapons manufacturers and other domestic entities collaborating with the apartheid regime all generate lots of revenue for UConn. Community support of SJP is how the occupation of Palestine, the Israeli apartheid regime and the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians will become unprofitable and unbeneficial for the state of Israel and the University of Connecticut. This process growing nationally and globally is a reflection of the Boycott Divestment Sanctions movement, which successfully overturned a previous apartheid regime in South Africa. Therefore, it is a matter of fighting for human rights and having the community rally behind Students for Justice in Palestine in demanding the administration do better.
For the alleviation of the occupation and apartheid in Palestine supporting SJP by sharing their message, studying Palestinian problems and physically participating in their events on campus are all as essential now as they have always been. Further, if the UConn administration wishes us to believe they have values other than revenue, then in turn, they should listen to Palestinian students and take a stance against apartheid and ethnic cleansing, distancing our school from the state of Israel.