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On December 2nd, an event entitled “Overcoming Terror: A True Story” was set to take place on the University of Massachusetts campus in Amherst, Massachusetts. It was sponsored by the Student Alliance for Israel (SAFI) and the University of Massachusetts Hillel House. IDF Sergeant Kenny Sachs was the orator, an on-call speaker for Israeli propaganda groups Upstart Activist and Divestment Watch. Though the topic of discussion happened in Gaza, the event description never named Palestinians. Instead, “terrorists” was the term used to describe those who “attacked” Sergeant Sachs at the Erez checkpoint in northern Gaza. The rest of the description being a muddled account of a shootout between Sachs and aforementioned “terrorists” in an attempt to create the center periphery story of Sachs losing his ability to play basketball after being shot in the leg. He said, “That was one of the hardest things I’ve ever heard.”
The Western Massachusetts Coalition for Palestine organized this protest in solidarity with the Palestinians silenced by the illegal Israeli occupation. Vis-á-vis the silent walk-out protests at Arizona State University and Michigan State University, we taped the children’s names of those murdered in Gaza during Operation Cast Lead to our shirts. By being intentional in using silence as a means of non-violent protest, we were invoking the silencing effect of the IDF in Palestine – of the military occupation, the separation wall, of the staggering number of Palestinians killed. Kenny Sachs served in the IDF until 2003 in Jenin, Gaza, Lebanon, and Tulkarem. There are voices who will never be able to give their account of this military occupation, effectively silenced without their story being able to echo throughout history. This video is an attempt to provide the rudimentary means to bring life into those who have been killed and can no longer voice their abstention to the forceful annexation of Palestinian land by insidious Zionist policies.
Israel has been making attempts to rebrand itself in the United States by sending soldiers to humanize the occupation, to reverse the roles of a violent occupier into passive victims of “terrorist” attacks, using the soldier’s inability to play basketball for instance as the pivotal point of this narrative. This, of course, leaves out the option for Palestinians to illuminate the occupation and the struggle for justice – recanting here the brutal histories of Gaza, Jenin, and Lebanon. By emphasizing the personal nature of this lecture, Student Alliance For Israel again denies the legitimacy of their claim that they want to encourage all opinions, create constructive dialogues, or foster pathways to peaceful co-existence for all peoples. As a coalition, we disregard this notion of co-existence and peaceful dialogue so long as Israel continues the ethnic cleansing in Palestine. As activists interested in justice, we refuse to acknowledge the shallow attempt to depoliticise this event. Despite multiple opportunities, Student Alliance For Israel has declined any sort of academic, public, moderated debate.
In doing this action, we are also in accordance with the call for a boycott, divest, and sanctions movement against Israel. Until Israel is held responsible for their crimes against humanity, until they remove all troops from occupied territories, until they accept the right of return, and abandon the systematic policy of carving up the land – we will continue to boycott Israel to the fullest extent. Israel is a colonizer-settler state which has forcibly expelled the indigenous people from their land for decades. Despite condemning international accounts of their domestic policies, Israel is still being financed by economically powerful companies and countries. As a form of non-violent resistance, the boycott movement as a necessity needs to swell and multiply. We see hope on the horizon, and as a coalition, we are attempting to foster ways to reach those ends until Palestine is free, imbued with joyfulness and sovereignty.