Stefanie Fox, Director of Organizing
Jewish Voice for Peace
Watching the coverage of the Egyptian Revolution last month, I was moved and inspired by the way young leaders set up classrooms in Tahrir Square, ensuring students would not lose access to education while waging their historic struggle for freedom and democracy. It was a great reminder to me that educators and students are always at the heart of the struggle for justice, and that no such struggle is complete without access to education, for all.
"We Divest," the campaign led by Jewish Voice for Peace demanding that retirement fund TIAA-CREF divest from the Israeli Occupation, honors the legacy of educators and students in struggles for justice, and the urgency of the Palestinian fight for access to education by naming April "Right to Education Month."
We will offer many ways for you to learn about access to education in Palestine/Israel, including firsthand from a group of young Palestinian activists who will be coming to a city near you. We also hope you’ll reach out to the educators and students in your life to let them know about the vital role they could play in this campaign.
We all know the struggle for education and justice continues in Palestine/Israel. Students trying to attend classes are targeted for armed harassment at checkpoints. Teachers trying to teach in Gaza know building materials wait at the border while their decimated schools remain in rubble. The structure of Israeli Occupation systematically destroys Palestinian access to education: students and teachers face unlawful detention, armed harassment, curfews, checkpoints, closed schools, dorm raids, an apartheid Wall, separate and unequal roads, illegal arrest, and bombed schools and universities. So why is the premiere retirement fund of educators—TIAA-CREF—playing a role in denying Palestinians their right to education? TIAA-CREF prides itself in providing “financial services for the greater good,” yet they invest in companies that make their profit from the economy of the Israeli Occupation. In just two examples: Northrop Grumman makes the bombs that destroyed Gazan schools during Cast Lead and Elbit produces the cameras and other equipment outfitting the wall as it carves a path between students and schools.
Throughout April: Right to Education Month, Jewish Voice for Peace is proud to bring three young Palestinian activists from the West Bank—Mira Bishara Dabit, Amer Shurrab, and Hanna Qassis—to share with educators, students, and activists nationwide the challenges facing young people who live under Israel’s military occupation. They will also share their inspiring struggle to put an end to the injustice by holding companies like TIAA-CREF accountable for the impact of their investments in Occupation.
The Palestinian students’ stories about their struggles for human rights, including the right to an education, focus on the tried and true non-violent tactics of boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS). We hope you’ll use this month to jump more fully into the BDS action as well. Start organizing in your community today-- the time is now to fight for education and justice for all.