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Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

SJP Hosts Annual Apartheid Week, Demands Peace in Gaza

CW: This article discusses violence and death in Israel and Gaza. Please refer to the end of the article for on- and off-campus resources.

Georgetown University Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) hosted their annual Apartheid Week from April 8 to 12 as part of its broader advocacy against the ongoing Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories in the West Bank and Gaza.

The week featured four events, including educational lectures, a movie screening of “The Wanted 18,” an animated film recreating the true story of the Israeli army’s pursuit of 18 cows, and a final die-in protest in Red Square, where students will gather to honor those killed in the conflict. SJP also released a list of demands for the university, including a call for its divestment from companies with financial ties to the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and the establishment of a working group to support Palestinian, Arab and Muslim students.

SJP also demanded that Georgetown replace its study abroad program at Tel Aviv University with a PalTrek program, a nonprofit organization that aims to support U.S. graduate students in an immersive travel experience in Palestine and Israel, and commit to serve as a sanctuary school for SJP. SJP also called on Georgetown to call for a ceasefire, which President John J. DeGioia (CAS ’79, GRD ’95) had done a day prior in an April 1 email to the university community. 

The humanitarian crisis in Gaza is ongoing, and Israeli forces have killed more than 33,000 Palestinians and displaced 1.7 million more as of April 12. This year’s Apartheid Week comes 185 days after the Hamas militant group killed 1,200 people and kidnapped over 240 others in their Oct. 7 attacks on southern Israel. 

SJP co-president Omar Rahim (SFS ’24) said Apartheid Week is hosted nationally by other SJP chapters and featured valuable teach-ins this year to help Georgetown community members understand the conflict. 

“We figured it’d be truly important to have a teach-in going over the current situation, acknowledging the current genocide in Gaza and actually explain to people and have a discussion with people about why it’s referred to as a genocide,” Rahim told The Hoya.

SJP board member Selina Al-Shihabi (SFS ’26) said this week was particularly meaningful to her because the human toll of the Israel-Hamas war includes multiple of her Palestinian relatives, and she often feels hurt when members of her community dismiss her advocacy.

“If my grandparents didn’t leave Palestine in 1955, I would be in that exact same situation, and I don’t know if I would be alive or dead or severely injured. I don’t know,” Al-Shihabi told The Hoya. “So it’s unfair when it’s hurtful. And it’s very, very, very hurtful.”

On April 10, Mark Lance, a philosophy and justice and peace studies professor at Georgetown, instructed a teach-in for Apartheid Week entitled “From South Africa to Palestine.” 

The lecture drew connections between South African apartheid, in which racial segregation was legally imposed from 1948 to 1994, and the Israeli jurisdiction of Palestine, wherein the Israeli government has imposed policies that separate the Palestinian population from Israelis in Gaza and the West Bank.

Lauren Doherty/The Hoya | Georgetown University Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) tabled in Red Square throughout its annual Apartheid Week hosted April 9-12.

“The point of discussing the South African example is two-fold: First, it illustrates the way that colonialism and oppression within states that are clients of imperial powers develops over time,” Lance wrote to The Hoya. “Second, since the movement against South African apartheid was successful, it gives us a model for resisting Israeli apartheid.”

In 2022, multiple leading international figures referred to the situation in Israel and Palestine as apartheid. The Israeli government has built walls and established checkpoints, which UN expert Michael Lynk said keeps Palestinians under Israeli rule with unequal rights and welfare access. 

Lance said their lecture is focused on successful strategies for ending U.S. support for what activists believe to be apartheid, and they strive to tell the stories of those the conflicts impact most.

“In general, my teaching and research try to adopt the perspective of and stand in solidarity with those at the bottom of the power structures,” Lance wrote. 

Apartheid Week typically concludes with a gala, with last year’s celebration featuring student performances and dabka, a Palestinian-style dance. However, in light of the conflict, Rahim said it did not feel right to end the week on such a lighthearted note. 

“Usually we do cultural events and we do a gala, but it feels kind of inappropriate to celebrate at this moment right now because of what’s happening and the ongoing genocide in Gaza,” Rahim said. “So, we replaced what we usually do as a gala with a die-in protest.”

During a die-in protest on April 12, SJP leaders will read the names of children killed in Gaza. Al-Shihabi said each attendee is given one child’s name, an action which aims to evoke emotion when eventually read aloud from the list, an hours-long process. 

“It’s not an exciting thing when the name gets called — it’s heartbreaking,” Al-Shihabi said. “You really rationalize and you realize that this is a life that’s been lost and you feel that pain.”

“It really humanizes the people who have died,” she added.

One of SJP’s central demands is that Georgetown divest its $28.4 million endowment dollars from Alphabet, the parent company of Google, and Amazon, two companies with ties to the Israeli military. In 1986, Georgetown divested $28.6 million from companies tied to South Africa in reaction to the nation’s apartheid. 

“Until Georgetown divests, we will not rest and we will not stop,” Rahim said. “It doesn’t align with Georgetown’s Jesuit values to have this money invested into war crimes and crimes against humanity.”

A university spokesperson did not respond directly to whether or not Georgetown plans to cut ties with Israeli-affiliated companies, but encouraged students to contact the Committee on Investments and Social Responsibility (CISR) if they have requests regarding divestment. 

“Any member of the university community interested in submitting a written proposal for consideration is welcome to email the Committee on Investments and Social Responsibility (CISR),” a university spokesperson said. 

In 2017, the CISR reviewed a student proposal that in part demanded Georgetown divest from companies endorsing the Israeli occupation of Palestine. The CISR ultimately ruled against divesting. 

DeGioia became one of the first higher education administrators to call for a ceasefire in Gaza. Al-Shihabi said DeGioia’s call for a ceasefire made her feel validated in much of her advocacy, but that there is still work to be done. 

“At the end of the day, it’s very easy to type up a couple of words and send that out,” Al-Shihabi said. “What’s harder is to divest, is to issue a student group — which is not a hard demand, we made that demand and have not seen any student group — and also remove study abroad in Tel Aviv, Israel.”

“I do believe he deserves praise, and I do believe he deserves to be commended for that. But again, it’s not enough,” she added.

Resources: On-campus resources include Health Education Services (202-687-8949) and Counseling and Psychiatric Service (202-687-7080); off-campus resources include Crisis Text Line (text 741741).

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Lauren Doherty
Lauren Doherty, Senior News Editor
Lauren Doherty is a sophomore in the College of Arts & Sciences from New Canaan, Conn., studying American studies with a minor in journalism. She is a huge Taylor Swift fan!!! [email protected]

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