April 11, 2014
McMaster students extend an olive branch to Palestine as the struggle continues
Special to Rebel Youth
Beside the rubble—perhaps a Palestinian home once stood there—olive trees grow. Beside highways, roads where for years Palestinians could not even traverse by foot, shrubby boughs of olive trees overhang the asphalt.
On Gazan soil, where Palestinians inhaled burning phosphorus into their lungs, trees bear olives ripe for the picking. These trees bear more than olives: memory is born into its bark.
As if to unravel the colonial tapestry of tales that spoke of a barren Palestine, the trees roots latch onto an earth which has born the brunt of the occupation. In the Mediterranean basin, what does it mean for Palestinians to extend an olive branch?
During peaceful protests, whizzing Israeli bullets resound throughout the air, filling children's ears with their sound; that is, if they did not find a home buried in their chests. Provocateurs, disguised among the Palestinians, rouse the protesters, arresting some for indefinite detainment.
Palestinian lawyers trap themselves in the labyrinth of bureaucracy, bifurcated* into two systems of legislation, to assert the rights of Palestinians arbitrarily arrested.
Palestinian prisoners, without charge or trial, undergo hunger strikes—in one case, more than three times longer than Gandhi's longest—without advancing the independence of Palestine, or moving the world so deeply to any degree near Gandhi.
Western observers are wont to damn Palestinians for waging wars against the occupation, yet are absolutely dismal in their appreciation of how interwoven violence is threaded throughout the fabric of a structure that works to continually dominate, displace, and decimate the Palestinian people.
Palestinians have sought out non-violent means of resistance, yet soon encounter brutal suppression from the occupying forces. It comes as a surprise, then, that when over 170 Palestinian civil organizations issue a call to endorse the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement institutions fire back that they are “neutral”.
Such was the situation with McMaster University's Student Representative Assembly (SRA), the student body's elected leadership. The Vice-President of Finance, Jeffrey Doucet, deemed that the governing body of the McMaster Students Union (MSU), allegedly representing the interests of its students, should not take a stance on complex, political, and international issues.
The Zionist opposition also insisted that the occupation and oppression of the Palestinian people is not a student issue.
A politically crafted agenda placed the Zionists' motion ahead of BDS, despite being submitted a full week later. The Zionists' motion would have banned the MSU from taking a political stance on any international issue.
This motion was poorly conceived, since the MSU works on strengthening its commitment to becoming a fair trade campus. The SRA Speaker, Maria Daniel, of course, paid no mind to the undesirable consequences of the motion and insisted on placing it ahead on the agenda, despite dissent from a few pro-BDS SRA members.
The pro-Zionists filibustered at the general assembly, dragging the time, eventually leaving the gymnasium when it dawned on them that the BDS campaign organizers had been so effective so as to have had the majority of the students consistently vote in their favour.
This theatre of a democracy drew its curtains to a close, as the pro-Zionist opposition, who had worked hard to argue about the importance of accessibility on campus, disappeared from the room before the motions could even be discussed.
Add to this that the Zionists ensured that the MSU President David Campbell took up almost an eighth of the assembly's allotted time, a bare ten minutes were left to the now 518 students present to discuss BDS after the amendment of the agenda. Fortunately, the motion passed; unfortunately, since the assembly did not meet quorum, the motion is non-binding on the MSU.
What was allegedly a non-student issue drew hundreds of students into the gymnasium.
The assembly's attendance peaked at 630, three shy of quorum, before dropping to 520 when the Zionists dispersed and assembled outside the gymnasium. Still, students overwhelmingly voted in favour of BDS, with a head count of 360 and only 23 opposed (and 135 abstentions).
Students arrived with the conviction that they did not want their money invested in the occupation and oppression of the Palestinian people. BDS campaign organizers recognize that their struggle is far from over, but rejoice in their recent success on March 26th.
The BDS campaign organizers continue to struggle and extend an olive branch to Palestine, in solidarity.
Edward Lovo is an activist and student based in Hamilton, Ontario where he is a member of the Young Communist League since 2012 active on questions of anti-imperialism, Palestinian solidarity, women's, queer and trans* rights.
* Bifurcated: the splitting of a main body into two parts, as in the trunks of a river.
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