“People are only starting to listen”: ASG resolution vote marks widespread campus recognition for some Palestinian students and those supporting Palestinian human rights


Graphic by Meher Yeda

The recent resolution, signed by more than 300 students as of Wednesday night, stated the student government’s support for Palestinian human rights.

Yunkyo Kim, Campus Editor

Content warning: This article contains mentions of violence. 

In 2015, Associated Student Government narrowly voted in favor of a resolution calling Northwestern to divest from companies that allegedly violated human rights in Palestine. On May 26, ASG passed a resolution that incorporated the 2015 demands, with overwhelming support.

To some students with familial ties to Palestine and students who support Palestinian human rights, the passage of the resolution came as a moment of major recognition on campus. 

The recent resolution, which came before the Senate on Wednesday after two hours of discussion and with signatures from more than 300 students, called on the University to issue a solidarity statement for Palestinian and Muslim students.

A Weinberg junior who asked not to be identified for safety reasons said she was surprised at the amount of support the legislation received. 

“Six years later, having so much more vocal support, having people actually understand what is happening to Palestine, having people actually understand how atrocious the actions of the Israeli government are — it’s really uplifting to see and it makes me a lot more hopeful about the future,” the Weinberg junior said.

Similarly, a Palestinian senior in McCormick who attended the meeting said he left the Zoom feeling optimistic. The large margin of votes in favor of the resolution reassured him that support for Palestinian human rights across the campus has grown, he said.

The McCormick senior emphasized that the resolution was about a human rights issue. He referenced Human Rights Watch, which reported this April that the Israeli government’s actions in certain areas amount to apartheid and persecution. 

“People are beginning to realize (the Israel government’s violence toward Palestinians) is a human rights issue,” he said. “A lot of that echoed in the ASG session.” 

At the ASG meeting, Weinberg freshman Evan Carman read a statement in support of the legislation. He told The Daily that he wanted to make his identity as an Ashkenazi Jew clear at the meeting to show Palestinians that there are Jewish allies on campus. 

“I feel that I’m standing up for core Jewish values of Tikkun Olam and welcoming the stranger,” Carman said. 

During the meeting, attendees debated over whether some of the wording in the resolution was antisemitic. Attendees discussed reconsidering the phrase, “Zionist settler-colonialism” in particular. A Hillel senator said on Wednesday that the resolution would lead to division on campus.

After the resolution passed, Hillel released a statement saying the dialogue around amending the resolution was not a good-faith attempt at including Jewish voices. In supporting the resolution, Carman said he wanted to provide a different perspective from Hillel’s.

In the statement, Hillel acknowledged that the center does not speak for all Jewish students. But an anonymous Jewish undergraduate who attended the meeting said it still felt as if the center was advocating on behalf of other Jewish students on campus.

“I think the biggest part for me was the frustration of Hillel and other Jewish student groups trying to speak on behalf of all Jewish students at Northwestern,” the undergraduate student said. “In reality that is simply not the case anymore, nor has it ever been.”  

The student added the meeting was also the first during their time at NU that they witnessed other Jewish students openly criticize the Israeli government and military. 

A Muslim Palestinian student said Palestinian freedom is not a religious or political matter, but rather about human rights. The McCormick junior said her friend found her shaking and sobbing while listening to discussions. 

“I have to leave that meeting halfway through to recollect myself because apparently, I don’t have the privilege or time to grieve,” she said. 

The student said some of her family members were killed on October 29, 1948. She always introduces herself as Palestinian, she said, although she has lived in several countries across the Middle East and North Africa. However, in the United States, she was told to not identify herself as Palestinian because it was too dangerous. Despite calls for help and recognition, “people are only starting to listen,” she added.

The University has yet to release a statement of solidarity with Palestine, as it has done following major news events that concerned campus communities. University President Morton Schapiro told The Daily that he was told not to issue a solidarity statement if he could not unilaterally condemn the actions of the Israeli government. 

The University has precedent in divesting from companies with ties to violence. In 2007, the University announced its intent to divest from companies that do business in Sudan. In 2005, NU instructed the firms that invest money on behalf of the University to sell any holdings those firms had in four foreign-owned companies that had been identified as supporting the government in Sudan, which armed militia groups to attack villages in the Darfur region. 

A McCormick junior who spoke during the ASG session pointed out that the University did respond to calls for divestment in response to conflicts in Darfur. The same should occur for Palestine, he said. 

“What is happening in Palestine is one of the most well-documented human rights abuses in history,” the student said.

One Medill sophomore said the passage of the legislation makes now a good moment for the University to respond. 

“The administration tends to not really be in agreement with what the students are saying,” she said. “In all honesty, there hasn’t really been much acknowledgment of what’s going on from the administration, which I think is incredibly, incredibly problematic.”

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