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The University of Chicago’s Independent Student Newspaper since 1892

Chicago Maroon

The University of Chicago’s Independent Student Newspaper since 1892

Chicago Maroon

A Cry for Divestment: SJP Rally Draws Hundreds of Attendees

Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) at UChicago held a rally in support of Palestine and called for the University to divest from Israel.
Protestors+marched+down+Ellis+Avenue.
Shinjini Chakraborty
Protestors marched down Ellis Avenue.

Content warning: This article contains mentions of violence.

Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) at UChicago held a rally and press conference in solidarity with Palestine on Friday, October 20.

Addressing hundreds of attendees gathered outside of Levi Hall, speakers demanded that UChicago divest from Israel and decried Israel’s bombardment of Gaza.

The speakers, who did not disclose their names because of media presence and out of fear of retaliation, were representatives from SJP, the Palestinian Youth Movement (PYM), and #CareNotCops. Two University faculty members also spoke at the event.

The first speaker, from PYM, spoke out against Israel’s actions in Gaza. The speaker mentioned an explosion on the premises of Gaza’s al-Ahli Arab Hospital on Tuesday.

“We are watching the crimes against our people unfold in real time,” she said. “On Tuesday, it all came to a head when a hospital, a hospital full of patients and doctors and people trying to live, was bombed, killing more than 500 Palestinians. This is not just a war crime, this is a genocide.” Since Tuesday, U.S. and European intelligence agencies have stated that the cause of the explosion was a misfired Palestinian rocket. An analysis of security camera footage conducted by the Wall Street Journal also corroborated those claims.

Speaking about the United States, the speaker stated, “We hold this country responsible for sending the weapons that killed hundreds of people at a hospital, for sending Israel more than three billion dollars every single year to oppress people who just want to do more than survive.”

The next speaker said he had been a faculty member at the University for the past several years. He condemned both the actions of the Israeli state towards Gaza and the support that Israel received in those actions from nations and institutions such as UChicago.

“I’m also here, in small part, because I am Jewish, and I think it’s important to combat the weaponization of antisemitism against those who stand with Gaza,” he said. “And to say that the equation of anti-Zionism with antisemitism is itself antisemitic.”

An organizer from #CareNotCops focused her speech on UChicago and the City of Chicago.

“Although what’s going on in Palestine may seem so far removed from us, our University and the City of Chicago are complicit in the genocide going on in Gaza. UChicago invests in defense companies that are building the bombs that are being dropped in Gaza right this minute,” she said.

“The Chicago Police Department actually has a strong relationship with Israel. They send their officers to Israel to train. That means that the CPD learned from and worked together with the IDF, the so-called Israeli Defense Forces, that we know are really the Israeli Occupying Forces.”

Another professor challenged the University’s stated commitment to political neutrality.

“I am glad that I can stand here and say ‘free Palestine.’ I am glad that I am not as afraid [as] other colleagues of losing my job because of this University’s ostensible commitment to free speech,” she said.

“However, the University cannot be rhetorically neutral while being materially invested in apartheid. If the University is truly committed to neutrality, it needs to fully exit this conflict. Investing in Israeli military contractors is not neutrality. Partnering with Israeli institutions is not neutrality,” she added.

“In their response to the invitation to this protest, University administrators assured us that ‘our endowment investments are all legal.’ I assure you they are not. Apartheid is illegal. Occupation is illegal,” the professor said.

Following the speeches, a protest organizer called out the fact that University administration had not shown up to the event. The organizer then initiated a march to the Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy, and Practice.

As the protesters began marching, a small group of counterprotesters holding Israeli flags remained behind. They told The Maroon that they were not from any particular organization.

Upon reaching the Crown School building, the organizers introduced a final speaker, who identified himself as Michael. He spoke about the company General Dynamics, in which the named benefactors of the school, the Crown family, are substantial investors.

“The controlling stake in General Dynamics, the fifth largest weapons contractor in the world, is the Crown family,” Michael said. “So that means that the $75 million that they spent to slap their name on this school had nothing to do with social work. […] They have made the people that attend this university and especially this school complicit in their crimes.”

 

Editor’s note: Sentences in this article were updated by the editorial team in order to reflect intelligence assessments and reporting on the explosion at the al-Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza that was published after this article went through The Maroon’s internal fact checking processes.

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  • C

    Concerned student / Oct 24, 2023 at 12:03 pm

    Is this reporting or a hagiographical account?

    Until a couple of weeks ago, I was among those who repeatedly claimed that the charge of antisemitism is thrown around too lightly, and still believe that. However, SJP is a movement that supports the establishment of a Palestinian ethnostate from the river to the sea, murderong or expelling every Jew there in the process. Failing to acknowledge that while perpetuating their claims unchecked is laughable.

    In particular, their claims about the hospital are wrong, as now we already have definitive evidence that the explosion was caused by an Islamic Jihad rocket, and it was at a parking lot next to the hospital. Even NYT have walked back their own embarrassing reporting.

    It’s also laughable that they hold the Chicago principles in one hand when they value protection, but then want the administation to drop those principles and back them.

    Many members of the university community are Israeli and have studied at Israeli institutions. If SJP had their way, we’d never make it here in the first place based on our immutable characteristics. In what world does such a disgusting exclusionary call not receive the same tone of coverage as a Klan rally?

    Free speech should be protected – let them have these vile events openly, so we know who these scumbags are. But let’s also cover the Hamas apologists truthfully.

    Reply
    • C

      Concerned Student with a Moral Compass / Oct 24, 2023 at 5:14 pm

      If you are legitimately concerned with SJP’s rhetoric, I’d invite you to go and speak to them. None of them support murdering or expelling Jews from Palestine.

      We’re watching 1.1 million+ human beings being displaced from their homes right now. Rockets are landing on civilians in Gaza, but that doesn’t matter to you. You may need to consider that you’re on the wrong side of history here.

      Reply
    • D

      Do your research / Oct 25, 2023 at 12:22 pm

      SJP does not “support the establishment of a Palestinian ethnostate from the river to the sea.” That is a flat-out false claim. Check anything they have every published. You will not find that.

      Reply
      • S

        Student with more than 2 brain cells / Oct 26, 2023 at 1:21 am

        So SJP does not chant “from the river to the sea?” And when they apparently don’t chant it, they don’t mean the removal of all Israelis from Israel?

        Even if SJP didn’t mean the removal of Israelis when they “don’t” chant it, that’s what the chant means. If you disagree with it, stop using it and find another one. As someone on the opposite side, it seems like you guys have done a great job with catchy chants so far, so swapping this one out shouldn’t be too hard.

        Reply