Furman University's Student Newspaper

The Paladin

Furman University's Student Newspaper

The Paladin

Furman University's Student Newspaper

The Paladin

Ceasefire Now: It’s in Our Hands

Furman students must seize the opportunity to stand with the people of Palestine in a way that matters.
Illustrated by Lila Dawson

On April 18 and 19, Furman students will have the opportunity to vote for or against a piece of student-body legislation titled Ceasefire Now!. If passed, it would compel the Student Government Association to release a public statement recognizing the ongoing conflict in Palestine as a genocide, calling for a ceasefire, and making three demands of the administration: 1) an equivalent statement of its own, 2) disclosure and termination of any investments in firms complicit in the genocide and 3) a prohibition on future school-sponsored trips to occupied Palestine.

A referendum of this kind is almost totally unprecedented in Furman’s history, so students considering this legislation will likely have questions, such as: Why a public statement? Why these demands? Why a referendum?

The organizations sponsoring this resolution — the Furman Young Democratic Socialists of America (YDSA), the Furman Middle Eastern North African Club (MENA), and the Furman Environmental Action Group (EAG) — believe a public statement by SGA would have both moral and strategic value. Morally, we want the institutions that claim to represent us to stand in solidarity with the oppressed, and solidarity does not happen in silence or behind closed doors. Strategically, a statement from the student body itself would carry more weight than one from just these three organizations, serving to increase pressure on the administration to meet the demands outlined above.

To call this “performative” because we are demanding things of the administration rather than taking action we can accomplish on our own is to reduce generations of historic freedom struggles to mere performance because they dared to rally the disempowered to make demands of the powerful.

We find it morally reprehensible that the university we call home has been silent in the face of a world-historic crime (which the United Nations has found “reasonable grounds” to classify as genocide) in which our government is directly participating. We find it even more reprehensible that it, and by extension all of us, could conceivably be financially supporting this crime through Furman’s investment portfolio (whose contents remain opaque to us) or school-sponsored trips. We want Furman to stand on the right side of history and do what is necessary to sever any potential material ties to the genocide of Palestinians.

Strategically speaking, institutions like Furman hold influence over public discourse. A well-renowned university taking a public stand might be the watershed moment necessary to bring the movement for a ceasefire out of the repressed margins and into the mainstream of U.S. political life. Furthermore, if Furman were to materially distance itself from the genocide, the potential financial pressure exerted on Israel and the U.S. government would be small on its own, but it could create a snowball effect by encouraging students at other universities to mobilize for the same goals. The historical movement for divestment from apartheid South Africa shows us that this can be done.

The Ceasefire Now! coalition has chosen to pursue a referendum because we have been unable to achieve the change we seek by other means. We tried the institutional route first, expressing our demands in an open letter to the administration on Nov. 14 and then meeting to negotiate with President Davis on March 21. Davis rejected our demands, so we appealed to the elected representatives of the student body. Dozens of students turned out to support the Ceasefire Now! resolution at a March 25 SGA meeting, but SGA rejected it. Confident that the outcome that night was not representative of the desires of the student body at large, we turned to grassroots democracy. Within only three days, the coalition gathered 298 signatures for Ceasefire Now!, well beyond the 10% threshold necessary to trigger a referendum, as established by the SGA constitution.

Throughout this entire process, we have encountered three main strains of criticism repeatedly from the administration and opponents of the resolution in SGA.

First is the idea that SGA and the administration have a duty to remain “apolitical.” What this fails to understand is that no position is apolitical. Inaction is a choice. As students, many of us accept this premise in the abstract when we think about past injustices like Jim Crow laws or the Holocaust. Should we not apply the same standards to an injustice happening before our very eyes?

Second is the accusation of performativity. This one is wrong even on its own terms. As outlined above, even if a statement was the coalition’s only demand, it would have real meaning and power, but the coalition is also calling for two tangible actions to contribute to the end of the genocide. To call this “performative” because we are demanding things of the administration rather than taking action we can accomplish on our own is to reduce generations of historic freedom struggles to mere performance because they dared to rally the disempowered to make demands of the powerful.

The most grave accusation made by opponents of Ceasefire Now! is that it endangers students at Furman. One opponent even used the phrase “pitting minority groups against each other” at the March 25 SGA meeting, presumably referring to Jewish and Muslim students. But this is not a referendum about Furman’s Jewish or Muslim students, or about Jewish or Muslim people in general — it is a referendum about an active genocide and its victims, perpetrators and enablers. Any student who feels isolated by Ceasefire Now! will have been isolated for political reasons, not ethnic or religious ones, and as has been established, an apolitical decision which isolates no one is impossible.

So far, the alternative means of aiding Gaza offered by critics have fallen into two categories: humanitarian (fundraising) and institutional (lobbying). Both are deeply flawed. The former is noble but fails to account for the reality of this crisis. Palestinians aren’t dying because too few people are fundraising for humanitarian aid — they’re dying because Israel is blocking that aid from reaching them and massacring the rare few who manage to receive it. These are political problems, requiring political solutions. Lobbying behind closed doors is not the path to those solutions, organizing for political power is, and that starts with uniting in struggle around demands that meet the moment.

Furman students, if you want to help build the movement for a ceasefire and a free Palestine, vote yes on Ceasefire Now! and join Furman YDSA, Furman MENA and Furman EAG in working to ensure the administration respects the will of the student body.

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