The Black Is Back Coalition for Social Justice, Peace and Reparations (BIBC) SALUTES the brave, visionary youth warriors of West Orange High High School, Teaneck High School, and Rutgers University in New Jersey for their tremendous courage in standing up and speaking truth to power in support of Palestine, in the face of ruthless opposition from the Zionists in the state.
All the settler colonialist project named the United States seeks to leave for today’s youth and future generations is an overburdened debt load, a militarized society of never ending war and immense poverty, in which the needs of the people are subverted to the military industrial complex and Wall Street.
Much of this upcoming generation, especially those who are 22 and under (Gen Z – aka Zoomers) in the United States have not lived one moment of their existence without the US overtly being at constant war, whether domestically or internationally. In addition to witnessing an unprecedented pandemic unfold right before their eyes, they have witnessed George Floyd, Atatiana Jefferson, Breonna Taylor, James Blake,etc., and are now bearing witness to a brutal genocide in Gaza, in which the battle ground is a civilian neighborhood and among the targets are minors their age and that of their baby siblings.
It is against this backdrop that the students at West Orange High wanted to raise their voices to speak truth to power by having a rally in support of the Palestinian people. They wanted to let the youth in Gaza know that the youth of West Orange, NJ are standing with them and are doing everything within their power to stop the genocide and to bring an end to the occupation. When October 7th first happened the town immediately issued a statement in support of Israel, while showing no regard for the plight of the Palestinian people. On October 13th, school board member, Robert Ivker , at a public school board meeting referred to the Palestinian people as rapists, baby killers, and evil. Horrified by the callous indifference of the town, these students decided to raise up their voices to speak out against the atrocities committed against Palestine.
But instead of city officials creating a safe environment for the voices of people with different views to be heard during these very difficult times, they created an environment of hostility where the students were met with bullying, intimidation, condemnation and threats of violence.
When Zionists found out about the students’ planned actions, the student organizers were called into the principal’s office while pro Israel parents were allowed to storm into the school with class in session, calling for disciplinary actions against them, including suspensions and expulsions. A vilification campaign was launched likening them to nazis. Officials in the town sought to hijack the Free Palestine Movement by maliciously asserting that the Palestinian freedom cry, “From The River to the Sea, Palestine Will be Free,” was a call to exterminate Jewish people. The mayor of the town, Susan McCartney, issued a biased statement, unfairly admonishing the students for not rendering an opinion about Hamas, as if that is a requirement to hold a rally for Palestine calling for a cease fire. Yet in the mayor’s statement of support for Israel, she did not condemn any of the numerous massacres committed against the Palestinian people, starting with the Nakba of 1948 right up until the present day genocide of unarmed Palestinian civilians. (In fact, to date she hasn’t issued one word of condemnation or concern about the over 20,000 Palestinians civilians who have been killed by Israel.) A , Jennifer Hirsch, MD of Montclair, NJ, even started a petition, spuriously accusing the students of seeking the elimination of Jewish People. And in the FB Group, West Orange 07052, the students were threatened by adults with violence and doxxing. Because of the immense pressure, the rally was postponed, and a PR agent for the school white washed their message, and removed any mention of Free Palestine, and From the River to the Sea. . . from their propaganda.
Never the less, the students resolve remained strong, as they put a call out to the broader community for support. At the next school board meeting, community activists, along with parents, packed the meeting waiving Palestinian flags and condemning the actions of city officials. Some of the activists in attendance were Lisa Davis, Vice Chair of the Black Is Back Coalition, Ali Aljarrah from CAIR (Council On American-Islamic Relations), Anya Dillard – The Next Generation, Zellie Thomas – Black Lives Matter Patterson, etc., and on November 22nd, the students lead an anti colonial solidarity march throughout West Orange, boldly proclaiming From the River to the Sea, Palestine will be Free in their lifetime and demanding an end to the US War machine!
On November 29th, the high school students in Teaneck, New Jersey followed suit, and staged a pro Palestine walk out as well. They too were met with threats of violence by the township and it is reported that a vehicle with the Israeli flag attempted an assault on the protestors during their rally. These students were also smeared as wanting to annihilate Jewish people for waiving the Palestinian Flag and for chanting “From the River to the Sea, Palestine Will be Free.”
And as recently as December 12, 2023, Rutgers University, the state university of New Jersey, suspended the Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) chapter, stating that they have caused disruptions on campus. Yet they have received no prior notices in the form of a warning and nor have they received any opportunity to challenge the allegations In fact, Rutgers did not respect them enough to inform them directly of the suspension. Instead they found out about it through a reporter.
The Black Is Back Coalition condemns the unwarranted suspension of SJP by Rutgers and the ruthless smear campaigns that the townships of West Orange and Teaneck have engaged in to silence the voices of the youth who are rejecting the violent world of never ending wars of US imperialism and colonialism imposed upon them by the prior generations.
Oppressed people have the right to rise up against the oppressor and a fundamental part of resistance involves never letting the oppressor control the narrative. There is nothing even remotely violent about the freedom call “From the River to the Sea, Palestine Will Be Free. Not at face value, and not in the context of any one of its words, collectively or individually. Rather the supporters of Zionism and settler colonialism are projecting their violent history onto the liberation movements of the oppressed. When the United States said from sea to shiny sea, and from the redwood forest to the gulf stream waters, they attempted to annihilate every nonwhite person in sight from coast to coast. This is the same playbook that occupiers of Palestine have been using since 1948. We must overturn colonialism in all of its ruthless manifestations, with the understanding that we do not seek to replace eurocentric colonialism with neo colonizers of a different hue! Rather we seek to create a world in which all people practice self determination free of colonial exploitation and domination.
We conclude by saying that today’s youth are right to reject the world of never ending war that is being thrust upon them. Colonialism poses a clear, existential threat to our existence, as we are closer to nuclear war than we should ever be due to the constant saber rattling of the US war machine. The planet will not sustain this way of existence much longer.
We salute the youth who are rising up throughout the world to reject this barbaric way of existence. It is your world, and the future belongs to you alone. We stand with you in creating a better way of existence and welcome you to the pantheon of freedom fighters that the United States has tried to criminalize since its immoral inception.
WAYS TO SUPPORT THE STUDENT STRUGGLES:
Send emails on behalf of the Teaneck School District and Elected Officials by clicking here.
Follow the West Orange teens on Instagram atwoteens4palestine.
For recommended readings documenting the extensive history of Cointel Pro and of the United States government targeting criminalizing liberation struggles, click here.