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The Carletonian

Students form new group, Palestinian Justice Coalition

<m, students began a new student organization advocating for Palestinian rights, called the Palestinian Justice Coalition. The group was formed as a merging of three separate Palestinian advocacy groups - J-Street U, Students for Justice in Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace - that existed before this year.

The founding members of the Palestinian Justice Coalition, Urmila Kutikkad ’18  and Sam Haiken ’18, thought three Palestinian activism groups was not sustainable at Carleton. All three groups were national organizations, with chapters not only on college campuses, but at locations across the country.

Many of the leaders o of the previous Palestinian advocacy groups graduated or went abroad this term. Consequently, Kutikkad and Haiken saw potential for a unified Palestinian activism group.

“When the older leadership left, and many went abroad, we felt like it didn’t make any sense to have all these factions on campus,” said Kutikkad. “Especially when all the students remaining on campus have similar ideologies.”

Students were also concerned about the reputation of national Palestinian activist organizations. J-Street, for instance, had national requirements about what people could say at meetings. For example, calling the Israeli-Palestine conflict “Apartheid” is banned at J-Street meetings.

“We felt that J-Street was pretty conservative, even though it’s supposed to be moderate,” said Kutikkad.

Similarly, the Students for Justice in Palestine has a poor national reputation for working in solidarity with Palestine. Haiken was hesitant to let employers know of her involvement.

“I and the other SJP leadership didn’t feel comfortable putting this work on our resumes, even though we were really proud of it, and felt like this was something we would want certain employers to know about,” said Haiken. “This is why I personally wanted to distance myself from the national organizations, and create our own campus organization.”

Palestinian Justice Coalition meetings center around a single topic and might be educational or discussion-based. The group is currently working to foster awareness of the Israeli-Palestine conflict at Carleton.

“We find that awareness is a huge area at Carleton that we can dig into,” said Haiken. “For instance, a lot of people say they don’t know anything about this issue. I think people know more than they realize, but I think we could help people be confident in that knowledge.”

The Palestinian Justice Coalition will advocate for Carleton’s divestment from certain products they think exploit Palestinians. For instance, Kutikkad said Caterpillar is one such company.

“Caterpillar is used pretty extensively to expand settlements in Palestinian occupied territories. It’s also what was used to build the new Weitz [expansion] here. There’s a lot of products, like Saba humus at the bookstore, that profit off of the occupation.”

The Palestinian Justice Coalition has new members that were not involved in the previous campus organizations. Haiken says many freshmen are becoming interested in Palestinian advocacy.

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