SAJFP Statement on Student Protests in Solidarity with Palestinians

“You’ve made us – me and my people – feel that we’re free, we’re heard, and we’re going back to our homes and land. I’ve spent the whole night, thinking about every video I see. You are shouting for Palestine, you are protesting for Palestine, you are dancing, singing for Palestine… Keep going, and we will too.”

– Bisan Owda, Palestinian journalist in Gaza

SAJFP stands in solidarity with our comrades on campuses in North America and Europe who are protesting for Palestine, even in the face of violent suppression from police, politicians, and university administrators. Students have been forcefully arrested, expelled, and kicked out of campus residences. Many have been left without shelter due to these reprisals. The images of police brutality against, in particular, people of colour bear a painful resemblance with the violent oppression of the student movement of the 1980s in apartheid South Africa, as well as of the Black Lives Matter movement, making it troublingly clear that the struggles for a free Palestine and for Black lives are joined in their challenge to white supremacy and state-sanctioned violence. 

While it is heartbreaking to see the continued violence that Israel’s allies are committing against pro-Palestinian students, the courage of these youths has given hope to so many in Gaza and around the world. As solidarity movements in South Africa and around the world are experiencing gains but also setbacks in the face of state repression, censorship and Zionist propaganda, the encampments on over one hundred university campuses worldwide energise the global mass movement for a Free Palestine. Indeed, it is clear from university administrators’ disproportionate responses to the campus protests that oppressive political institutions are terrified of the power of this movement.

Unsurprisingly, there are many Jewish students taking part in the protest movement, showing the world that anti-Zionism is not anti-Semitism. The encampments often host collective Shabbat services and were sites for celebrating Pesach this past week, demonstrating that it is a core Jewish value to fight alongside those who are oppressed. Although Zionists have claimed that these protests have instilled fear in Jewish students, it is only Zionists who are scared. Despite their ubiquitous misappropriation of the discourse of campus safety, it is also often Zionist counter-protesters who are trying to instigate violence in and around these encampments. Like us, they see the writing on the wall. Zionist impunity is coming to an end and Palestine will soon be free.

This mass mobilisation is unprecedented in the fight for Palestine, but we have seen it before. As Will Shoki writes in his Africa Is a Country editorial, in April 1985 seven Columbia University students blockaded the university’s administrative building, demanding that Columbia divest from apartheid South Africa. Student protest movements in the United States and elsewhere were instrumental in helping to bring down apartheid in our country. As then, now too, divestment from the brutal settler colonial regime is crucial. We therefore join the protesters in demanding that universities in South Africa and around the world cut ties with genocidal Israel. 

Photo by George Cohen (1985). Source:

These protests – which signify potentially the largest student movement of the 21st century so far – have reaffirmed that the Palestinian fight for liberation will not be silenced, and will not be forgotten. As Nelson Mandela stated: “We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.” We join our comrades by calling for an immediate ceasefire and an end to 76 years of settler colonialism in historic Palestine.