Leaders of the National Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán (MEChA), a Chicano student organization, recently voted to endorse the Palestinian call for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS). The endorsement was approved at the group’s 18th annual conference in Phoenix, Arizona, on March 30. A press release issued after the conference noted that BDS is necessary in light of Israel’s “military occupation and settlement of Palestine.”
The Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) chapters at Arizona State University and the University of Arizona helped MeChA arrive at its endorsement and, according to the statement, led several workshops on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at the conference.
One of the sessions was called “Concrete Connections,” which compared the U.S.-Mexico border fence to the Israeli security fence in the West Bank, and explored the potential for “cross-movement building” for Palestinians and Latin-Americans. The statement about the conference concluded with, “Together, these civil societies – from Arizona to Palestine – are working towards one goal of fighting oppression and resisting everyday injustice.”
Earlier this week, the Pacific Northwest chapter of MeChA held a regional conference at The Evergreen State College (TESC) in which it endorsed BDS as well. During the conference, MeChA-Evergreen invited other activists involved in the divestment campaign (known as TESC Divest!) to participate in a teach-in connecting the BDS movement to the “indigenous struggles in the Americas.”
A statement issued by the group read, “We recognize that our peoples’ historical and present struggles - against deportation, occupation, exploitation, and dehumanization - in Arizona, in the border, and in the United States - not only coincide, but are also connected to Palestinians’ struggle against Israeli military occupation and settlement of Palestine.”
TESC Divest! has been spearheaded by SJP at Evergreen, as well as the newly formed Olympia, Washington, chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP).
In recent years, there has been growing collaboration between MeChA, which has approximately 400 chapters around the United States, and Palestinian solidarity groups. Campus chapters of MeChA and SJP (largely on West Coast campuses and especially at University of California schools) have co-sponsored a variety of events seeking to highlight connections between Palestinians and the Latino-American community.
MeChA chapters have even co-sponsored anti-Israel events on campus that have featured extreme speakers and anti-Semites, including an appearance by Amir Abdul Malik Ali at the University of California, Riverside in May 2009. At the appearance, Malik Ali claimed that U.S. politicians are controlled by Israel, warned that although “many are afraid of Zionists…Muslims are not afraid” and described Israelis as “the new Nazis.”