Submitted by Jay Saper
May 19, 2013
On May 15, students at Middlebury College in Vermont staged a checkpoint outside their dining hall during the busiest meal of the year to commemorate the 65th anniversary of the ethnic cleansing of Palestine, which led to the establishment of the state of Israel.
As the Middlebury divestment campaign from arms and fossil fuels gains national attention, a coalition that included Palestinian, Israeli, and American Jewish students staged the act of political theater in solidarity with Nakba Day demonstrations around the globe as a call to add apartheid to the students’ divestment demands.
At a midnight breakfast event during finals week, students were greeted in the dark with barricades blocking the entrance to the dining hall and flashlights from full uniformed soldiers asking for identification cards.
Alex Jackman, a junior from New York City, described the checkpoint as “one of the coolest pieces of theater I have seen on Middlebury Campus. Performed during the time when all students are wrapped up in stress about exams and schoolwork, the piece served as a reminder that there are greater battles to fight beyond our campus.”
A gate was lifted for students who had received Israeli documentation. They could pass freely to prepare themselves a plate of pancakes. Those with Palestinian IDs were directed around the checkpoint.
Some students voiced their frustration with being held up, “This is not cool, I am trying to get to midnight breakfast.” One shouted, “I have to study for finals.”
Jackman contended it was important for students to confront the checkpoint. She explained, “Middlebury College students tend to abstract issues of social injustice, a method that allows us to remove ourselves from these issues. But by being confronted, quite literally, with this piece of theater, we were not able to remove ourselves from our privileges—even if only for a moment.”
The performance, developed by students as part of a course on Theater and Social Change and members of the organization Justice for Palestine, was broken up by campus public safety.
“This is not theater, we can tell it is political,” one officer voiced. “Everything that is political has to be approved by the College.”
For Palestinians, checkpoints are not a momentary interruption, but one persistent piece of a dehumanizing system of apartheid. Between 2000 and 2005 there were 67 Palestinian mothers who were forced to give birth at Israeli military checkpoints and 36 of those babies died.
Apartheid is not enabled through merely subjecting a people to oppressive conditions, but rather through creating separate realities whereby a group of people is not forced to confront their implication in the domination of another group.
Middlebury College itself is a settlement on stolen Abenaki land. With its pristine limestone buildings and perfectly manicured grass, Middlebury manufactures an environment seemingly separate from the oppressions it perpetuates, which is itself a political act.
Students at Middlebury are stepping up and refusing to allow a separation of conscience that tolerates inaction in face of the school profiting from Israeli apartheid. Justice for Palestine has one message for administrators, particularly fitting of a midnight action, “We will not rest, until you divest.”
Jay Saper is a student organizer with Justice for Palestine at Middlebury College.
Gentlemen, I’ve only been here five months, but this is the most astounding and most astoundingly disturbing hearing that I’ve been to since I’ve been here. You guys have essentially rewritten the Constitution here today. The Constitution, Article I, Section 8, Clause 11, clearly says that the Congress has the power to declare war. This—this authorization, the AUMF [Authorization for Use of Military Force], is very limited. And you keep using the term “associated forces.” You use it 13 times in your statement. That is not in the AUMF. And you said at one point, “It suits us very well.” I assume it does suit you very well, because you’re reading it to cover everything and anything. And then you said, at another point, “So, even if the AUMF doesn’t apply, the general law of war applies, and we can take these actions.” So, my question is: How do you possibly square this with the requirement of the Constitution that the Congress has the power to declare war?
This is one of the most fundamental divisions in our constitutional scheme, that the Congress has the power to declare war; the president is the commander-in-chief and prosecutes the war. But you’re reading this AUMF in such a way as to apply clearly outside of what it says. Senator McCain was absolutely right: It refers to the people who planned, authorized, committed or aided the terrorist attacks on September 11. That’s a date. That’s a date. It doesn’t go into the future. And then it says, “or harbored such organizations”—past tense—”or persons in order to prevent any future acts by such nations, organizations or persons.” It established a date.
I don’t disagree that we need to fight terrorism. But we need to do it in a constitutionally sound way. Now, I’m just a little, old lawyer from Brunswick, Maine, but I don’t see how you can possibly read this to be in comport with the Constitution and authorize any acts by the president.
Senator Angus King (I-ME) at a Senate Committee on Armed Services hearing on May 16, 2013, quoted in “‘Astoundingly Disturbing’: Obama Administration Claims Power to Wage Endless War Across the Globe” (May 17, 2013), Democracy Now!
Today, Saturday May 18th, and tomorrow, Sunday May 19th, from 10am-6pm, at 101 East Broad Street, Richmond VA, there will be a Black Book Exposition, presented by the Richmond-based Elegba Folklore Society and the UBUSCS (United Brothers and United Sisters Communications Systems). The expo will highlight black literature, authors, and publishing companies.
This is a two day event. Live jazz and refreshments will be provided.
For more information and to RSVP, see the title link.