Students Seek Justice in Palestine

By Livia Wendland | Campus | October 18, 2022

Cover Illustration: Students for Justice in Palestine raising awareness at Dam Square on March 19, 2022. Livia Wendland/The Amsterdammer

Reporter Livia Wendland draws attention to growing concerns of Israeli apartheid against Palestine. Activist Robyn, spokesperson of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), is raising awareness about the Palestinian experience, detailing ways to get involved, uplift, and promote Palestinian liberation among students.

Red and green memorabilia flooded Dam Square on March 19. A long line of marchers handed out flyers, waved flags, and chanted: “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free!”

This rally was part of an anti-racism demonstration. It occurred at the beginning of Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW), an annual series of international events characterized by protests, cultural performances, film screenings and panel discussions. These activities aim to raise awareness of Palestinian experiences under Israeli occupation. In Amsterdam, the movement is spearheaded by the activist group Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP/SRP) at the Vrije Universiteit. 

Founded in 2014, the group recently experienced a revival alongside renewed Western interest in Palestine, according to SJP spokesperson and international law student Robyn. During the bombing of Gaza in May 2021, the world witnessed the use of advanced military weapons on besieged civilians. Later that year, Palestinian families were evicted from their homes in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in East Jerusalem, resulting in another wave of global condemnation. “People think of it as two countries fighting over land,” Robyn says, “but you don’t see coverage of how, once the bombing is over, Palestinians are still under occupation.”

“People think of it as two countries fighting over land, but you don’t see coverage of how, once the bombing is over, Palestinians are still under occupation.” – Robyn, SJP spokesperson

Students for Justice in Palestine raising awareness at Dam Square on March 19, 2022. Livia Wendland/The Amsterdammer

2021 marked a turning point in popular perception of Palestine. For decades, the crisis has been dubbed notoriously complex and overly controversial. As a child, Robyn recalls seeing a map in a magazine where someone had scribbled across the region in black marker – an apt illustration of the contentiousness of the topic. Like many of her peers, she was inspired to support Palestinian liberation due to a general interest in human rights and disappointment in the complacency of the USA and EU

IAW wants the UN to investigate Israel for committing apartheid, a segregation system characterized by the imposition of discriminatory laws on racial groups, depriving people of their legal and civil rights. Proponents of the apartheid label in this case point toward forced displacement, unlawful killings, restrictions on movement and denial of citizen rights for Palestinians as evidence of apartheid in Israel.

As an Amsterdam-based collective, the SJP has a more local focus. They hope to spark a conversation among students and start an academic boycott of Israel by ending research partnerships between Dutch and Israeli universities. To commemorate IAW, the SJP organized two events: a film screening of The Mayor by director David Osit, which follows the struggles of a Palestinian mayor in occupied territory, and a panel discussion about an Amnesty International report on the existence of Israeli apartheid. 

When asked how someone can start promoting Palestinian liberation, Robyn recommends self-education. She cites the framing of the crisis as a ‘war’ as a massive misconception, since it implies a conflict between two equally militarized forces. “It’s important to acknowledge that what you’ve learned is at least partially biased,” she says. 

Students can also uplift Palestinian voices by following Palestinian journalists and artists on social media. Participating in boycotts and joining activist groups are ways to get directly involved. In recent months, the SJP has continued organizing opportunities for students to learn about Palestine and related conflicts, such as a panel discussion on the film The Battle of Algiers by director Gillo Pontecorvo.

You can find more information about their organization and upcoming events on their Instagram page.

Livia Wendland is an university student in Amsterdam. The views expressed here are not necessarily those of The Amsterdammer. 

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