When I was a student organizer not so long ago, I saw how brave students had to be to speak out for Palestinian rights.
On my campus, our Students for Justice in Palestine group’s quiet protest of Israeli appropriation mired us in months of legal limbo; at a neighboring university, a flier distribution on Israeli home demolitions was met with a police investigation; and I’ll never forget the day that dozens of students woke up to posters plastered across campus calling them terrorist supporters – a nightmare that went on and on as schools across the country were vandalized with similar defamatory posters.
While we did not let the intimidation stop us, we did all become keenly aware that our opposition – seemingly knowing that their argument against Palestinian rights and freedom could not win – would exploit every repressive tool they could to silence and intimidate us.
So when I heard Trump’s campaign promise to crack down on campus organizing for Palestinian rights, I feared the worst. It is here in the form of Kenneth Marcus, Trump’s pick for Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights at the Department of Education. Marcus built his career on targeting First Amendment-protected speech, especially when it is in support of Palestinian rights.
His confirmation hearing is next Tuesday, Dec. 5th. We only have today and Monday, Dec. 4, to make the Senate confirmation committee hear us. I, and student activists across the country, need you to take action right now: click here to call and email your senators to say you oppose Kenneth Marcus’ nomination.
The Office for Civil Rights, the office Marcus would be running, is meant to protect students from systematic discrimination on college campuses. But Marcus has spent years trying to intimidate and silence students organizing for Palestinian rights.
- He has repeatedly attempted to abuse civil rights mechanisms to file anti-discrimination complaints conflating speech critical of oppressive Israeli policies with anti-Semitism, in order to chill speech supporting Palestinian rights on campuses;
- He has a history of attempting to dismantle policies aimed at remedying racial discrimination, including affirmative action;
- He lobbied Congress to defund Middle East Studies programs that do not pass his pro-Israel litmus test;
- He targeted an Arab-American student leader for a satirical photo on Facebook, claiming a pineapple was an anti-Semitic symbol. The student said this accusation will negatively affect him forever.
And the list goes on.
Thankfully, as long as Marcus has been on the outside, the Department of Education has shut down his complaints and reaffirmed that organizing for Palestinian rights is protected political speech. But what will happen when it’s Marcus making those decisions?
I do not want to find out. Student organizers inspire us all, and have been at the forefront of fighting for Palestinian rights for decades. They deserve the safety to organize. It will take all of us to make sure all eyes are on this nominee.
Please look up your senators’ numbers, pick up the phone, and call today to defend student organizing and fight for a future where no one has to be afraid to stand up for Palestinian rights.
Government Affairs Associate
P.S. Not all of our advocacy is on the defensive these days. H.R. 4391 is a historic bill introduced last month by Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN) calling for an end to Israel’s military detention of Palestinian children. The bill continues to generate momentum with four additional representatives sponsoring it this week. Join Brad Parker and Jennifer Bing of the #NoWayToTreatAChild campaign for a webinar on Tuesday, Dec. 5 at 8 PM Eastern to find out how to get your representative to support it.