Yale Students Take a Stand Against Ethnic Cleansing in Palestine

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: CONTACT: Faith Vasquez June 29, 2021

Yale College Council Endorses Yalies 4 Palestine Statement of Condemnation

Yale Students Take a Stand Against Ethnic Cleansing in Palestine

New Haven, Connecticut- On Sunday, June 27th, the Yale College Council voted to endorse a statement condemning "the injustice, genocide, and ethnic cleansing occurring in Palestine." The statement was introduced in May 2021 by Yalies 4 Palestine, a student-led campaign to raise Palestinian voices and end the culture of silence around Palestine at Yale after years of fighting censorship. This campaign was created in response to the events in Sheikh Jarrah,and is sponsored by the Yale Arab Students Association and Middle East and North African Student Association.

"Today's vote is the beginning of what must be a diligent effort to ensure that Palestinian students are heard, their struggles legitimized, and the war crimes committed against them are condemned," commented Salma Shaheen, a Yalies 4 Palestine member from Hebron, Palestine.

The Yalies 4 Palestine statement condemned the recent violent expulsions of Palestinians in Sheikh Jarrah and attacks on worshippers at Al Aqsa mosque. It also denounced the U.S. military aid that funds this violence and made connections between police brutality globally and the actions of the IDF.

The council heard 10 minutes each of arguments from those in favor and those opposed to the statement, including students from Yalies 4 Palestine and Yale Jews for Palestine, a collective of over 115 anti-Zionist Jewish students and alumni, who were in favor, and others from Yale Hillel and Yale Friends of Israel, who were opposed. More than 100 Yale students and alumni were present at the Zoom council meeting.

Speakers in favor of the statement highlighted the worldwide support for Palestinian rights and the connection to racial injustice: "Palestinian oppression is an issue of racial injustice," said Ruqaiyah Damrah, a Yalies 4 Palestine member. "All ethnocentric violence is interdependent because it attempts to achieve and preserve the same hierarchies of erasure." Palestinian speakers expressed the reality of feeling unsafe on campus and of being actively suppressed by Yale administration and students. Shaheen, who has been called a terrorist for participating in protests at Yale for Palestinian rights, said, "As a proud Palestinian student at Yale… having your signature will allow me to talk about my struggle, my culture, and my people without being attacked and called anti-Semitic."

Jewish speakers from Yale Jews for Palestine also spoke in favor of the statement, demanding that the YCC pass the resolution and refuting the notion that anti-Zionist sentiment is antisemitic. "We offer our complete solidarity with Yalies 4 Palestine and note that their statement is significantly more moderate than our own," said Ryan Gittler-Muñiz of Yale Jews for Palestine, which published its own statement condemning Israel's actions on May 14th. "One of the reasons for this is that Palestinians on campus are forced to respond to bad-faith claims of anti-Semitism and terrorism before they can speak out about their own lived experiences of colonial occupation and dispossession." Other Jewish speakers also discussed their feelings of exclusion from the Slifka Center for Jewish Life, given its public display of the Israeli flag and institutional support for Israel.

Speakers from Yale Hillel and Yale Friends of Israel opposed the statement, claiming that its language was "rigid and uncompromising" and that the YCC's endorsement would make Jewish students feel unsafe on campus and uncomfortable voicing support for Israel. They also said that the statement would eliminate "a neutral baseline, [making] it harder to maintain an environment of open dialogue." The opposition group also argued that YCC would be overstepping its role by supporting condemnation of this statement and condemning a foreign government.

After 5-minute question and answer periods and a 20-minute deliberation period, the council's senators endorsed the statement in a final vote of 8 for, 4 abstain, and 3 against.

The YCC endorsement is the latest show of support for the statement of condemnation, which has been signed by over 500 members of the Yale community and 54 student organizations at Yale. Yalies 4 Palestine members expressed their sincere gratitude to those who have supported their statement and those who have stood in solidarity with them. Palestinian and anti-Zionist voices, who have long faced silencing and censorship at Yale, are celebrating this achievement as a historic step towards equality and open dialogue for Palestinian and anti-Zionist Jewish students on campus.


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