Students attending a pro-Palestinian event organized by the General Union of Palestinian Students (GUPS) at San Francisco State University two weeks ago were invited to create placards using a stencil that read “My heroes have always killed colonizers.”
The message, which seems to glorify violence generally and against Israel in particular, likely originated at an event that had been organized by the Center for Political Education in San Francisco (a program “dedicated to building strong movements and the left through education, analysis, theory, dialogue, and activism) a month earlier.
That event, called “My HEROES Have Always Killed Colonizers: Stories of Global Indigenous REZistance,” was organized to commemorate “Indigenous Peoples Day” and featured musical and spoken word performances to celebrate “every global indigenous warrior who’s been labeled a terrorist, unpatriotic, and/or savage.” In addition to African, Hispanic and Native American performers, at least one of the scheduled performers was to recite Palestinian political poetry at the event.
It seems clear that the two events’ use of the phrase is not coincidental. A Facebook page for the October event advertised that it will have on-site silk screen printing with the phrase “My Heroes Have Always Killed Colonizers” for people who bring t-shirts or other clothing items to imprint.
The table on campus that offered the stencil was apparently being staffed by students affiliated with the on-campus group, “Student Kouncil for Intertribal Nations” or SKINS. The group’s objective is to expose students at SFSU to Native American culture.
After the issue was raised to the university by ADL and others, President Les Wong, the president of SFSU, rightly issued a statement deploring the glorification of violence and stressing that there is “no place at SF State for celebrating violence or promoting intolerance, bigotry, anti-Semitism or any other form of hate-mongering.”
Thus far, however, GUPS has not displayed any remorse for its supervision of an event that featured pro-violence messaging. In fact, the group’s president wrote a letter to the president of SFSU claiming that issues raised about the stencil amount to a “belligerent smear campaign meant to slander the Palestinian movement on campus” and has created a “hostile environment” for pro-Palestinian students.
GUPS has been active on the San Francisco State campus since the 1970s and is a chapter of an international network of pro-Palestinian students. The group has organized a variety of anti-Israel programs on campus, including co-hosting the 4th Al-Awda convention in 2006, protests to oppose Israeli military action in Gaza, and Israeli Apartheid Week programs in the last few years. In 2008, the group received an “Outstanding Social Justice” award from the university’s Office of Student Programs and Leadership Development and Vice President of Student Affairs/ Dean of Students.
ADL has numerous campus-related resources to help students and others counter anti-Israel activity and anti-Semitism on campus, including: