In Our Power: U.S. Students Organize for Justice in Palestine
Reviewed by Hina Fathima
March 1, 2016
By Nora Barrows-Friedman. Just World Books, 2014. 274 pages. $20.99/paperback; $9.99/eBook.
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My political education about Palestine began through my friends, and by sporadically participating in events hosted by the Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) chapter at Haverford College. I attended the Palestine Culture Week, talks about Israel, and movie screenings about the conflict.
There are numerous other students who also become politicized about Palestine through on-campus groups like SJP, and by being contemporary bystanders to specific events in the Israel-Palestine conflict. For me, the catalyst was Operation Protective Edge that happened during the late summer of 2014. According to a report by Amnesty International, more than 500 Palestinian children were killed during those 50 days of hostilities between the two states. I participated in protests alongside several other impassioned students in Philadelphia, Pa., that summer.
In Our Power by Nora Barrows-Friedman captures this important tide of courageous activism at colleges and university campuses throughout the United States where students are increasingly speaking out against Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine, and joining in solidarity with Palestinians across the world.
A highlight of In Our Power is that the book is primarily presented through the voices of student activists, which gives the movement an opportunity to speak for itself. Students talk eloquently and movingly about what motivated them to join the Palestine solidarity movement. They describe what solidarity means to them; the kind of political, administrative, and legal obstacles they face on campus; and the use of scare tactics to intimidate them employed by campus administration, external government agencies, and Zionist organizations.
Another compelling element of this book is the discussion of intersectionality among various struggles. Barrows-Friedman, through numerous student interviews, illustrates the overlap between racism against African Americans in the United States and the systemic racism experienced by non-Jewish and Palestinian people in Israel. The book shows the connection between the U.S.-Mexico border conflict and the wall in Israel-Palestine. It also draws similarities between the plight of undocumented immigrants in the United States and that of Palestinian refugees. Another comparison is made between the settler colonialism experienced by Indigenous Americans and the ongoing illegal occupation of Palestine. As someone who is empathetic toward and interested in understanding these different struggles, I found it engaging to understand how other students are connecting these varied injustices, which form a common narrative that calls forth the principles of justice, solidarity, and equality of human rights.
In Our Power is divided into several chapters, focusing on different themes ranging from the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions strategy, inspired by the Anti-Apartheid Movement in South Africa, to student activism tactics. Each chapter is introduced by an interview, which creates continuity across chapters. While the book does briefly provide a background of the Israel-Palestine conflict, it may be insufficient to illustrate the depth and commitment of the student movement. Thus, it would be helpful for those unfamiliar with the conflict to read some historical background before delving into this quick but inspiring read.
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