July 9, 2020
LSJP Statement on McGirt v. Oklahoma Supreme Court Ruling and Indigenous Solidarity
In a moment when Palestinian self-determination is under relentless attack thanks to the Israeli government's ongoing threats of annexation, today we celebrate a VICTORY for indigenous autonomy in the Muscogee (Creek) Nation!
Following today's Supreme Court ruling on the Oklahoma case, federally recognized Indian Country in the United States has expanded overnight from 55 million to 74 million acres. But let us not forget that the treaties that America is now forced to honor were only agreed to in the first place under the oppressive and genocidal yoke of colonialism. The land that has been returned to the tribes is only a fraction of what was taken. As we contemplate the Israeli threat of annexation-- of its full formalization as an apartheid state with total control over an indigenous underclass who stubbornly refuse to stop existing-- we draw strength from our allies' victory today.
To the indigenous activists in America whose tireless work has made this possible: our spirits are lifted along with yours. Your allies in the global fight for indigenous rights congratulate and thank you. From Muscogee (Creek) Nation to Palestine, let us continue together for liberation!
November 8, 2019
LSJP Letter: Participation in iTrek Normalizes Oppression
Year after year, NYU Law students are recruited to apply for iTrek, a highly-subsidized spring break trip to Israel. “Want to explore a culturally rich and ancient land?” the organizers asked potential applicants in their initial outreach email last year. “Do you just really love Israeli food?”
Mention of Palestinians was remarkably absent from this outreach, but things have changed since then. As Israel’s government grows more transparently racist and oppressive, solidarity with Palestinians has become the mainstream position among young Americans. This year, iTrek organizers emphasize “Israeli and Palestinian perspectives” in their outreach materials. The rebranding effort serves to rehabilitate a pro-Israel position that has become untenable on our campuses. Israel can no longer be discussed without Palestine. Recognizing this, the pro-Israel narrative now takes a more palatable shape: We are not unreasonable; we concede that the “conflict” is morally complicated.
It is not. To vacation in Israel is to vacation in an apartheid state.
Following the passage of last year’s “nation-state” legislation, Israeli law is now explicit that the right to self-determination belongs only to its Jewish population. In a promotional iTrek video prominently featuring NYU Law participants, an NYU student states her admiration for Israel as a “bastion of democracy.” This “democracy” exerts control over 4.75 million Palestinians living in occupied territories who have no right to vote in Israel’s elections. This “democracy” is one where the Prime Minister drums up right-wing votes by warning that second-class Arab citizens might appear “in droves” to represent their interests. This “democracy” is in the throes of a drawn-out election in which the only discernible debate around the colonial project of settlement expansion is: which leading party supported it first? That iTrek participants could come away with admiration for such a democracy reveals the nature of the “balanced viewpoints” that NYU Law’s iTrek trip has fostered.
Of course, this trip simply could not occur if it addressed the reality of Israeli apartheid. The Israeli government is notoriously authoritarian in its treatment of potentially critical visitors—an assessment that is often openly made on the basis of race and religion. For Muslims, even membership in the U.S. House of Representatives does not ensure entry into Israel. In fact, iTrek’s own website warns organizers that “it is not unusual for a traveler to be detained, especially someone who is Muslim or has relatives in the Middle East or has traveled in the Middle East.” Under current policies, Arab visitors are sometimes detained for weeks without charges and without a right to legal counsel. To mitigate the risk of arrest, iTrek provides template letters to its organizers which assure Israeli officials that the trip “has a long standing reputation of creating a positive and long lasting impression” of Israel.
These positive impressions cannot exist without turning a blind eye to oppression. The abuse and dehumanization of Palestinians by Israel is well-documented. Those living in Gaza face a siege that the United Nations acknowledges as collective punishment, trapped in what is regularly described as an “open-air prison.”,  In 2018, in protest of their ongoing displacement, the people of Gaza engaged in mass demonstrations along the wall within which they are enclosed. 183 Palestinians were killed by Israeli security forces—a number that includes children, press, and medical workers. A single Israeli was killed—a soldier. To suggest that such violence is proportionate, necessary, or in any way justified is to entertain the racist presumption that Palestinian lives are disposable. This is why the supposedly “even-handed” approach now taken by organizers is still unacceptable. Even if iTrek lived up to the unlikely goal of balancing viewpoints, it would only serve to obscure the dramatic imbalance of reality.
Here in the United States, we see how such equivocation operates as a form of violence toward our marginalized allies. Irrelevant nuances are introduced to blur the moral clarity of taking a stand against concentration camps along our borders or police executions within them. (Incidentally, Israeli border surveillance technology and Israeli police training are both deployed in the United States, tangibly linking the oppression of Palestinians to the oppression of indigenous communities, migrants, and African-Americans here.),  American right-wing leadership, which Israeli leadership has enthusiastically embraced during this administration, has even equivocated about “blame on both sides” with respect to the horrifying resurgence of the neo-Nazi movement. Again, this equivocation has operated as a form of violence, signaling indifference to rising anti-Semitism and to the very real threat that the far-right poses to our Jewish American brothers and sisters. We must recognize the violence of such equivocation whether abroad or within the United States.
We, the undersigned, state unequivocally that we oppose programs which normalize apartheid. Although iTrek may dispute our characterization of their program as a “pro-Israel trip,” to focus on that question misses the point. Painting a “balanced” picture in the face of disparity will only ever serve the beneficiaries of disparity. We must not shy away from the work of dismantling oppressive structures. Only when we recognize them for what they are, can we begin the work of liberation for all.
NYU Law Students for Justice in Palestine
Letter Prepared By:
- NYU Law Students for Justice in Palestine (LSJP)
Co-Signing NYU Law Student Organizations:
- Coalition on Law and Representation (CoLR)
- Law Students for Economic Justice (LSEJ)
- Middle Eastern Law Students Association (MELSA)
- National Lawyers Guild (NLG)
- Resisting Injustice and Standing for Equality (RISE)
- Suspension Representation Project (SRP)
- Unemployment Action Center (UAC)
Co-Signing External Student Organizations:
- NYU (Undergraduate) Students for Justice in Palestine
- NYU (Undergraduate) Jewish Voice for Peace
- Columbia Law Students for Palestine