Palestine in Take Back NYU

25 02 2009

Take Back NYU” has gained much publicity lately. It is an organized student movement that took over the New York University Kimmel Center for student activities, on Wednesday night, February 18th. About 60-70 students (the numbers vary) walked to the cafeteria on the third floor of the building and barricaded the place. They remained there over the next couple of days, producing a list of demands, many of which are reasonable. It wasn’t a hostage situation. The rebels happily saw protests held outside in support of the cause. There were many rumors, broadcast reporters and various reactions on and off campus. It ended when the university administration ordered security officers to break in and get everyone outside. Thirteen students are now suspended awaiting judicial hearings at the university.

Their main demands relate to New York University’s financial transparency, its attitude toward student workers, disclosure of endowments and strategies… etc. However, it also included the demand to provide annual scholarships to 13 Palestinian students, with full coverage of housing, food and travel expenses. Another demand was to donate excess supplies and materials for the rebuilding of the University of Gaza.

It is admirable that these students, oceans and continents apart from the conflict, could include such a demand. I’ve always thought that those who are most involved in updates of the conflict belong to one of the two main sides. These two demands, however, were seen as somewhat absurd, along with another demand to ban Coca-Cola due to the company’s connections with warlords in the Republic of Columbia. If anything, these demands seem disconnected. Some people may even call them radical. The Palestinian-Israeli conflict is put, yet again, on the front page, attached to rebellious activities, not so completely peaceful, not to mention totally successful.

I wondered how the students came to the number 13, and why they have chosen Gaza specifically. There are many people around the world who suffer like the Gazans, if not more, say the Darfurians, the Burmese and even the Kosovians. The theme of this demand, instead, should have been to help disadvantaged youth around the world, in places of war and destruction in general.

Movements like these need leverage; numbers, numbers, numbers. The students have made their opinions public, and that deserves applaud. It hasn’t been effective, however… so far.

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