Palestinian students on U.S. speaking tour

The Filipino organization Bayan USA organized a reception in New York’s Solidarity Center on April 10 to welcome three Palestinian students from the occupied West Bank.

Local members of Bayan’s International League of People’s Struggle affiliates: Al-Awda New York: The Palestine Right to Return Coalition; the International Action Center; the Palestinian Youth Movement and Samidoun: Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network; as well as activists with New York City Students for Justice in Palestine joined the gathering. The reception coincided with a meeting of the ILPS’ International Coordinating Committee in Utrecht, the Netherlands.

New York City, April 10. WW photo: Toni Arenstein

New York City, April 10. WW photo: Toni Arenstein

The three students, from An-Najah National and Birzeit universities, are part of a larger group addressing campuses and communities across the United States on the impact of colonialism on education in Palestine during the 2016 Right to Education (R2E) tour.

The three had previously spoken at the An-Noor Social Center in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, on April 8, at a community event organized by NYC Students for Justice in Palestine in the heavily Palestinian neighborhood and planned to address a student group at Hunter College on April 11.

The tour, the second of its kind, continues a tradition of building ties between movements that began in November 2014 in Ferguson, Mo., the site of a massive Black uprising after the killing of Michael Brown by a local police officer.

“The R2E organizers are putting a spotlight on two locations [where] the tour will be arriving this year: the University of Hawaii and the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota,” Osama Mor, Amira Sakalla and Kristian Davis Bailey, National SJP activists and U.S.-based coordinators of the tour, wrote on March 29. “Both of these locations [reflect] the long history of U.S. settler-colonization, and their inclusion in the tour aims to accentuate the continuing struggle of both the Kanaka Maoli [Indigenous Hawaiian] and Oglala Sioux Indigenous peoples.” (

‘Our lives are political’

At the Solidarity Center, tour participants discussed the impact of Zionist settler colonialism on Palestinian education. Zionist obstacles include checkpoints, the “Apartheid Wall,” and restrictions on travel and residency by both Palestinians and foreign university staff, as well as targeting of students for political imprisonment, with “administrative detention” without charge or trial.

“Political activity isn’t a choice in Palestine,” one said. “Our lives are political.”

The students also spoke of various forms of Palestinian resistance and of the need for U.S.-based supporters to build the growing Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement and fight Washington’s massive aid to Israel, currently valued at over $3.1 billion a year.

Bayan leaders discussed U.S. aid to the Philippines and the country’s legacy of resistance to both Spanish and U.S. colonialism. They also brought up similarities between the Palestinian and Filipino struggles. A video was shown of Leila Khaled, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine leader and Palestinian resistance icon, addressing the ILPS’ Fifth International Assembly in Manila last November.

Following the event, the students participated in a similar meeting hosted by ICE-Free NYC in the nearby office of Families for Freedom.

Catron is a member of Al-Awda New York: The Palestine Right to Return Coalition and an organizer with Samidoun: Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network.