June 14, 2024

From the New Worker Editorial Board

The interviews below do not necessarily represent the views of the Communist Workers’ Platform. This piece is intended to shine light on the rising vigor and energy of the student movement to resist the genocide in Israel and the institutions in the US that support it. Students for Justice in Palestine is a national organization focusing on organizing Palestinian solidarity actions on campuses in the United States. A supporter of the CWPUSA attended a Sit-In at a university campus Starbucks organized by SJP FIU to hear the perspectives of the organizers.

The CWPUSA stands in solidarity with the struggle of the students on campuses and reiterates our call to all students and workers to join in exposing the silence, the complicity of the universities in the genocide of the Palestinian people. Further, we reiterate our demands:

  • The CWPUSA calls for a free and independent Palestine within the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital and the return of all Palestinian refugees to their homes, based on the respective UN resolutions.
  • The immediate release of all Palestinians and other political prisoners from Israeli prisons.
  • The cessation of all economic, political, and military cooperation with the genocidal state of Israel and the promotion of the recognition of the Palestinian State.

SJP FIU Organizer TM

Interviewer: Why does the issue of Palestinian liberation matter to you?

TM: I care deeply about this issue because, in my view, Palestine is such an integral issue right now that intertwines global struggles with the struggles that we Americans are facing in our own country. America is seeing a drastic change: people can’t afford to eat, people can’t afford rent, people can’t afford groceries, and at the same time, we’re sending billions of dollars to Israel.

If that wasn’t enough, I also am Palestinian. So, to see my people experience this murder in real time, in real life, through a screen – it feels dystopian. I don’t want this planet to be a dystopia; I want it to be a place where we care about one another and build community and not just be in this world where war has to be a fact of life.

Interviewer: What actions do you believe we can take here on the university campuses in the US?

TM: We have to work with one another, put aside differences that we might have individually to unite for a common cause and place Palestine at the forefront of our struggle. When we are fighting for Palestine, we are also fighting for workers, for trans people, for black people, for the disabled, for the elderly, for the unemployed – we are fighting for all oppressed people. So, if you’re on a college campus or if you go to a church or are involved in your community, keep organizing people because we can all have opinions, but if we’re not part of an actual organization doing actual work, our efforts won’t amount to anything.

Interviewer: Beyond unity, in regards to a plan of action, what do you see as the necessary next steps to win?

TM: We called for a ceasefire and for an end of US aid to Israel, and we heard the response from Joe Biden, from our government: “No, it’s not gonna happen.” That was step one. And I think we are now going into the second, third step where clearly our government has been unresponsive, and so we have to come up with an actual action for step two or three.

What are going to be our steps two and three? How are we as Americans going to let people know that we don’t stand by this? I personally don’t know what action to take, but I know that there are plenty of actions just like what we are doing here today [at FIU]. We can do sit-ins, civil disobedience, civil disruptions, and just things like that so that this country cannot keep moving while Palestinians are being bombed with our tax dollars.

Interviewer: Can you tell us about your job and its connection to the Palestinian issue?

TM: For sure, I am a Starbucks barista. Even before October 7, I had sometimes not wanted to go to Starbucks because I felt like the company was not as inclusive as it claimed to be. I remember that baristas weren’t able to put Black Lives Matter or Pride pins on their aprons. My family and I – my step-dad is black – we’ve personally had experiences with racism from Starbucks even before these events. In the past, I felt iffy with Starbucks, but I was largely ignorant and kind of liberal. I thought that maybe I could change the company from within and make a difference as a barista, and now fast forward to this point, I’ve realized that it’s a corporation with its “standards and values” set in stone. And those “standards and values” don’t take into account its workers or the diversity of its workers. I am also really disgusted with Starbucks suing Starbucks Workers United over their pro-Palestine statement. Not only are they union-busting, but they’re also not even allowing their workers to have their freedom of speech.

Interviewer: Do you have a message to the students of FIU?

TM: We are Florida International University – so if you as a student are asking how the issue of Palestine affects you, it is literally in our name. This is an international university; the students here have to be aware of what is happening internationally where we are seeing the atrocities in the Congo, in Sudan, and in Palestine. So instead of going about your life like nothing is happening, we students can incorporate these thoughts into our day and make sure to not forget about the people that are suffering while walking in our beautiful Miami university – remember that we have a cause to be fighting for.

Interviewer: Can you tell us about the event going on here right now?

TM: Yes, today is the International Day of Solidarity with Palestine. It is beautiful to see everyone here. We are studying, wearing our keffiyehs, doing our work at this sit-in at the Starbucks in FIU. We’re not being loud or disruptive; we’re just taking up the seats to make sure no one can sit down at this Starbucks. We’re not buying any Starbucks drinks – we brought our own Arabic coffee, and we are trying to relay the message that when you support Starbucks company, you are supporting a company that is okay with the genocide of the Palestinian people.

SJP FIU Organizer AI

Interviewer: How long have you been involved with SJP FIU?

AI: I have been involved since the end of October. Our first action [on campus] was the walkout on campus on November 17th. It was quite a few weeks after October 7, but before then we did organize and participate in different protests off-campus, different actions with groups like Al-Awda’s youth group and Jewish Voices for Peace in South Florida. After those in October and early November, we started to mobilize our own actions on campus. So I have been there from the very start.

Interviewer: Why does the issue of Palestinian liberation matter to you?

AI: I care about the issue because it is a genocide. We are humans. We are witnessing a genocide right in front of our eyes; thousands of people have died – we can’t sit back and pretend like it’s not happening. We always tell ourselves “never again” – the Native American genocide, the Armenian genocide – why aren’t we doing anything to stop the genocide happening right now that our tax dollars are funding? Since my tax dollars are directly supporting the genocide, I must care about where my money goes where my support lies – even without that, I should still care because at the end of the day, it’s about humanity, it’s about human lives. So yeah, if you do not support Palestine, I honestly have no words for you.

Interviewer: How do you think we can resist here in the US, on campuses, in our workplaces?

AI: I think the best way to resist would be by boycotting because that’s where our funds go. And also to demand a ceasefire. We have to demand that our institutions, especially as students, divest from the genocide and issue statements supporting the Palestinians in Palestine. Organizing protests and participating in them are great ways to demonstrate so that others can know about the issue and we can raise awareness of it. Protests also put pressure on different places. Like in West Palm Beach, for instance, where the city government purchased $120 million of Israeli bonds, we had a thousand people come out to protest in response. So if the people don’t want these actions and if the pressure keeps on building, the government would have to act on our side.

Interviewer: What is your message to other FIU students?

AI: My message to other FIU students is to stand with Students for Justice in Palestine, you should follow us on our socials, participate in our actions and demand alongside us that our university divest from genocide. Join our demand that President Ken Jessell takes back his previous statement and releases a new statement supporting the Palestinians and recognizing that Israel is committing genocide against them. My other message for the FIU students would be to sign our petition on our Instagram pushing for a Ceasefire Now resolution through the SGA (Student Government Association) which is supposed to represent us. Through that process, we can better reach the president and have him listen to our demands.

Interviewer: Do you have a final message to your fellow students?

AI: At the end of the day, this is about humanity, about human lives. Imagine if you were put in the situation of the Palestinians – how would you feel about others not supporting you? It’s common sense, the facts are there though they are trying to cover them up. We’re winning the media war right now. Open your eyes to this; that is my message.

SJP Organizer SJ

Interviewer: Why is the cause of Palestinian liberation important to you?

SJ: I am half-Syrian, half-Palestinian, so I was raised hearing about this issue constantly. Though I wasn’t invested just because I am Palestinian. When you see such injustice happening you have to stand up against it. If people are being massacred just for being Palestinian, just for control of the region – you have to say something. You cannot just sit in silence. I want to help; I want to see Palestine free in my lifetime.

Interviewer: How long have you been with SJP FIU?

SJ: SJP only just started at FIU so I have been here since the beginning in late October.

Interviewer: How do you think we here in the US can resist the genocide on our campuses, individually and on a larger scale?

SJ: It all starts with you. Social media is powerful and great for getting the word out. Boycotting Starbucks, McDonalds, and other companies that are investing in Israel, attending protests and continuing to get the word out, calling your representatives, any of these actions.

Interviewer: What actions do you think we can take aside from those? What specific actions has SJP taken?

SJ: We are mostly trying to educate people on what is happening in Palestine in the hopes that people will understand the cause and they themselves will start wanting to take action. Maybe they will even join our organization or another one involved in this. We have to keep putting the word out, keep putting the pressure on our schools, our governments to remove their support for Israel.

Interviewer: What is your message to the students of FIU?

SJ: Never forget: Free Palestine, until the end! Get the word out there, never stop spreading awareness, don’t get tired. We have to keep going until the end, until something changes.

I really hope people stay safe, especially with the rise of anti-Palestinian and Islamophobic hate crimes on the rise. I hope everyone stays safe and stays aware. Look at the bigger picture in the Middle East – I hope people learn more about what is happening in Syria, in the Congo, in Sudan. Never stop learning.