Views expressed in opinion columns are the author’s own.
Recently in The Diamondback, there have been a series of columns written about the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement and its place in the fight for global justice. While I felt Shane James’ column represented the movement well, a pair of pieces by Moshe Klein claimed that many of the movements’ actions are anti-Semitic.
As a recent graduate of the university, I felt it was prudent to defend Students for Justice in Palestine and its record as a hub for conscientious student advocacy on behalf of all oppressed people and to encourage current freshmen to join.
In his recent column, Klein claimed ProtectUMD singles Israel out without regard to human rights violations occurring around the world. However, I am proud to testify that I was part of the UMD Rally for Refugees and Immigrants hosted by SJP a mere five days after President Trump’s first refugee ban — and the event’s Facebook page indicates more than 500 people attended with us.
Our rally featured students fighting for their rights. We called upon the administration to declare this university a sanctuary campus and join in the fight to protect our undocumented friends and neighbors from deportation.
I was also a proud attendee of the rally held on April 12, hosted by UMD Socialists in front of McKeldin Library, calling on the Trump administration not to bomb Syria and start another unneeded war in the Middle East. This rally featured speakers not only from UMD Socialists but also from our own chapter of SJP. We raised attention not only to the role of the United States in the conflict, but also to the role of the Assad regime, the Iranian government and Russia in furthering the suffering of the Syrian people — including Palestinian refugees living inside Syria’s borders.
But our chapter of SJP hasn’t stopped there: We had members attend the March for Racial Justice in Washington, D.C., standing alongside members of the International Socialist Organization with their banner bearing the slogan “Students Against White Supremacy.” Unfortunately, as I no longer live in the area, I was unable to attend. But, as an organizer back home, I could attend vicariously through my friends down in College Park.
As a Jewish alumnus, I feel that my work with SJP was crucial in forming my identity. I’ve never felt fully welcome in dedicated religious organizations — after all, politics often becomes a point of contention in my conversations, and as a Jew and active anti-Zionist, engaging in debate over Israeli practices is never easy for me. However, in SJP, I found a group of students who live their lives by the values of Tikkun Olam (“repair the world”) and felt more welcome there than in any other student club I joined over my four years as a student.
Finally, my message to current freshmen is this: If you are looking for student organizations that are on the ground when our rights are under attack, SJP will stand with you every step of the way. We have a proud track record of standing alongside the oppressed, and will continue to do so moving forward. We welcome all students, regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation or knowledge of international politics who are enthusiastic about joining in the international fight for justice. Working with the campus SJP was one of the most fulfilling experiences I had as a student, and I guarantee you will feel the same.
Nathan Feldman graduated from the University of Maryland in 2017. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.