On the night of May 18, 2016, several members of various organizations, including the Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), the Black Student Union (BSU), the Muslim Student Union (MSU), Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán (MeCHA), La Resilencia Trans/Queer de UCI, American Indian Student Association (AISA), Asian Pacific Student Association (APSA), and Jewish Voices for Peace (JVP), demonstrated against the Students Supporting Israel (SSI) film screening and IDF panel due to the presence of Israeli “Defense” Force (IDF) soldiers on campus. The presence of the IDF, better known as Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF), and police threatened our coalition of Arab, Jewish, Black, Latinx, API, undocumented, trans, and queer students and the greater activist community. Our demonstration was held to protest the presence of military and police forces on campus, which threaten the lives of Black and Brown people every day.
The connections between the Israeli Defense Forces and military, colonial, and genocidal regimes all over the world are numerous. Not only do police departments in the U.S. send police delegations to train in Israel, but weapons trade and marketing–especially after the siege on Gaza in 2014–allows Israel to demonstrate the ‘effectiveness’ of its violent military technologies in order to market it to other nations/regimes. An example in California is the “Urban Shield,” which is a SWAT team training and weapons expo that brings together local, regional, and international police-military units—including those from the settler colonial, apartheid state of Israel—to collaborate on and profit from new forms of surveillance, state repression, and state violence. Urban Shield has an annual Weapons Expo to showcase and sell military weapons to the police, and have been shut down multiple times by pressure campaigns and community mobilizations. The connections between the IOF and the police are numerous; NYPD has an official headquarters in Israel itself. Police officers are being trained in “counterterrorism” techniques in Israel. Since 2001, over 300 high-ranking sheriffs and police from agencies large and small–from New York to Maine to St. Louis County to Oakland to Los Angeles to Orange County–have traveled to Israel for privately funded seminars to train in “counterterrorism” and “counterinsurgency” strategies and techniques. The discourse of “counterterrorism” is particularly disturbing and violent, considering Israel and the United States’ use of the rhetoric of “security” to justify genocidal and violent policies that criminalize dissent and liberatory, abolitionist, and anti-colonial movements and struggles. Israel receives over $3 billion in military aid from the United States each year, which it uses to create weapons and military technologies that are largely tested in Gaza, which functions as the biggest open-air prison and laboratory for Israeli weapons-testing. Violent militarized governments, such as the Brazilian and Filipino government, have purchased weapons from Israel as a result of the ‘effectiveness’ of their bombardment on Gaza. These governments use Israeli weapons against Black, Brown, and indigenous communities.
The protesters did not belong to any one organization- members of APSA, AISA, BSU, MEChA, SJP, JVP, La Resilencia, and MSU attended. The demonstration was held to challenge the presence of Israeli occupation forces on campus, as well as the general normalization of police and military presence on UCI’s campus. Students have consistently challenged police and military presence, only to face harsh consequences by administration and by conservative media outlets. The presence of IOF on campus is extremely triggering to many students who have lost land and loved ones as a result of the Israeli occupation. For opposing students to claim to feel unsafe at the presence of protesters is incomparable to the fear and vulnerability of Palestinians who face violence at gunpoint by IOF forces and who are facing systematic genocide, ethnic cleansing and erasure as a part of their colonization of Palestinian land.
In talking about providing a safe environment for all students on campus, administration’s double standards must be acknowledged. There have been countless incidents, reported and unreported, to which administration has never been responsive to. Two years ago, two members of SJP were cornered and harassed by a visiting IDF soldier. Last year, a suspicious older man with a brief case demanded to interrogate the MSU as to their beliefs on Charlie Hebdo attack, just to name a few occurrences. These incidents reflect the violence that institutional and systemic policies exercise against minority populations.
The demonstration against the Israeli Defense Forces presence is wholly justified. We will not allow the presence of Israeli Occupation Forces or the police on this campus, while remaining silent. Let us not forget the violence through which this institution was built, on Acjachemen and Tongva land without any respect for the 86 sacred sites and burial sites that this institution sits on. Our demonstration against the Students Supporting Israel expands beyond the spectacular violences that the IDF and that the police commit, but extends against the normalized violence of the every day. As students, we have every right to express anger and outrage over the Students Supporting Israel’s invitation of Israeli Defense Forces to campus, as well as the statements of the College Republicans at UCI and their acquaintances, which stated that “Social Justice is Cancer” and “Black Lives Matter exists only to wallow in victimhood and break things”. These so-called “sentiments” and “attitudes” are an extension of violent politics and are acts of violence in themselves and reflective of and actively defend a system of Islamophobic, anti-Black, and white supremacist domination that leads to violent oppression against Arabs, Muslims, Black people, and Indigenous people, globally.