Over 600 UC Berkeley students received mock eviction notices on the morning of February 23rd as part of a peaceful protest by Cal Students for Justice in Palestine. The flyers (which were clearly marked as fake, with “This is not a real eviction notice” written in bold letters at the bottom of the page) were slipped under every door on every floor of every building in the Unit 2 dormitories, with the exception of a single floor in one building, where the interruption of a Resident Advisor prevented us from exercising our right to free expression.
The flyers called attention to the real eviction notices Palestinians in the Occupied Territories receive from the Israeli military as part of the Israeli government’s policy of expelling Palestinians from their land in order to build ethnically-exclusive settlements, an ongoing project of ethnic cleansing that has seen some 27,000 Palestinian homes demolished since 1967. Israel’s military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza has repeatedly been declared illegal under international law, including in UN Security Council Resolution 242, making each demolition a war crime under the 4th Geneva Convention.
4.5 million Palestinians currently live without rights in the West Bank and Gaza, while 1.2 million live as Jim Crow-style second-class citizens within Israel. An additional 5 million Palestinian refugees worldwide are barred, by virtue of their ethnicity, from returning to their homeland. Israel’s policies towards Palestinians meet the UN’s definition of the crime of apartheid, declared in 1973 to include all “inhuman acts committed for the purpose of establishing and maintaining domination by one racial group of persons over any other racial group of persons and systematically oppressing them.” Israel’s violence against Palestinians reached a horrifying crescendo in 2014 as over 2,100 Palestinians (about 75% civilians, according to the UN) were killed in Israel’s latest assault on the besieged Gaza Strip.
The University of California currently has investments in companies like Caterpillar, which produces the armored bulldozers the Israeli military uses to raze Palestinian homes in the West Bank, and Lockheed Martin, which manufactures the Hellfire missiles Israel uses to deliberately target Palestinian civilians in Gaza. Cal SJP carried out this protest as part of our annual Israeli Apartheid Week activities raising awareness about the plight of Palestinians, and we fully support the movement for boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it respects Palestinians’ human rights.
The UC Student Assembly, the UC grad student union, and 7 of 9 undergraduate UC campuses have passed resolutions calling for divestment from companies complicit in the occupation, but the Regents continue to ignore students’ voices. With this action, we are calling on the UC Regents to honor the consensus in favor of divestment. This is why we also delivered the flyer to Chancellor Dirks. He has the power to influence the Regents, and we believe students have the power to influence Chancellor Dirks. This protest has already helped spark much-needed discussion on campus about the Palestinian perspective so often left out of the conversation on this issue.