Pro-Palestinian student activists reiterated demands for a ceasefire in Gaza and for the University to divest its endowment from companies associated with Israel‘s military activity in Gaza at a walk-out rally outside Nassau Hall on Friday. At around 100 people, attendance was lower than at previous protests.
Interspersed among urges for action on campus were wide-ranging calls that connected the Palestinian cause to larger issues of colonialism and oppression, with most opposing a two-state solution.
“A two-state solution is just another way to say settler colonialism,” Patrick Jaojoco GS, the secretary of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), said in a speech during the rally. Jaojoco also represented the Princeton American Indian & Indigenous Studies Working Group.
Other speakers included students from Students for Prison Education, Abolition, and Reform (SPEAR) and the Young Democratic Socialists of America (YDSA). Sireen Sawalha, a Palestinian-American activist and local high school teacher, also spoke about her experiences living in Jenin in the occupied West Bank.
“The viable solution for both nations is to be one state,” Sawalha said in an interview with the ‘Prince,’ noting that people of multiple ethnicities and racial backgrounds are now able to live together in the United States despite its history of slavery and racial segregation. “This talk about Israel giving back an inch of land, it’s a dream for the Palestinians. And I don’t believe that the Netanyahu government will give any inch back.”
Sawalha previously generated controversy on campus in 2022 for holding a sign at a vigil memorializing her brother Iyad Sawalha, who was a leader in the Islamic Jihad accused of killing 31 people in attacks on Israeli buses in 2002. Sireen Sawalha has since co-authored a book about her family and her brother’s involvement in armed resistance. Her speech on Friday did not prominently feature him.
Speakers from the Princeton Israeli Apartheid Divest coalition (PIAD) also reiterated the demands of a petition released in December for the University to disassociate its endowment from companies “that profit from or engage in the State of Israel’s ongoing military campaign, occupation, and apartheid policies.” The petition also calls on the University to refrain from associating with Israeli academic institutions and businesses, and to cultivate affiliations with Palestinian academic and cultural institutions.
At the rally, protestors chanted, “Israel bombs, Princeton pays. How many kids did you kill today?”
Organizers have drawn comparisons with Princeton’s selective divestment from companies affiliated with apartheid South Africa in 1978 — the culmination of organizing efforts beginning in 1969.
Other speeches connected the issue of Palestine to wider issues of colonialism and empire.
“We all live under the illegal occupying force of America, a structure of empire that has continued to colonize lands globally,” Jaojoco said. “A call for an immediate ceasefire in Palestine is just the first step to justice.”
During the rally, Ari Powell, a parent of a Princeton student, stood in the middle of the crowd and shouted intermittently at protestors while recording on his phone.
“What about the hostages?” he called, prompting boos and chants of “shame” from some protestors.
In an interview with the ‘Prince,’ Powell said that he was trying to initiate dialogue during the rally.
“I was absolutely astonished that [the protest] was happening on the campus at Princeton,” he said. “I did interject politely, in my opinion.”
Powell also said that he did not attempt to engage with any of the rally’s speakers, some of whom remained after the protest outside Nassau Hall to speak with attendees.
A second, longer rally at Palmer Square on Saturday also called for a ceasefire and sought to bring attention to the impacts of Israel’s military campaign in Gaza.
Ellen Li ’24, an SJP organizer who spoke at the rally, does not see the broader issue of Israel and Palestine as “complicated.”
“But I understand that people need to arm themselves with the knowledge to be able to come to that conclusion,” she said.
Miriam Waldvogel is an associate News editor for the ‘Prince.’
Please send any corrections to corrections[at]dailyprincetonian.com.