The third and final day of the National SJP Conference featured two rounds of intensive workshops and a closing session that capitalized on the urgency of formalizing an organized student movement in support of Palestinian rights.
The first round of workshops focused heavily on building the skills necessary to effectively combat prejudice, normalization, and propaganda and to systematically establish this cause as the ideal social movement. The second round of workshops focused on entire campaigns set to have a national impact in the coming year. Here is a sampling of the workshops offered to conference attendees:
Presented by award-winning journalist Kristin Szremski and other notable guests, this workshop helped students understand the inner workings of the press. Certain customs, connections, and strategies must be implemented for maximum media exposure. It is important to utilize media as a means to spread awareness. The impact of one’s work as it applies to the general public can oftentimes be gauged by how much of the message is transmitted through mainstream media, and it is necessary to take advantage of the obvious benefits that come with interacting with the press.
The Question of Palestine in the Public Sphere: How to (and how not to) talk about Palestine
Although it is important to utilize the press as a means of accurately delivering a message to a global audience, it is equally important to understand how to strategically present the issue of Palestine to anyone, such as a YouTube audience, apolitical friends, a crowd of curious strangers, or a group of individuals supporting the Zionist ideology. This workshop was hosted by a diverse group of students who have identified the effectiveness of the tactics through their own experiences. Words play an important role in how the issue is framed, and the students who participated in this workshop left with a clear understanding of what it takes to ensure the issue is framed properly, accurately, and realistically.
Building Connections: Coalition Building on Campus
Coalitions between student groups are important particularly because they feature a synergistic effect: the product of the whole is greater than the products of each individual component combined. Because SJP’s work is grounded on the issue of social justice, the potential for coalition-building and networking is always high, especially with groups that also deal with social justice causes. This workshop showed students the importance of establishing coalitions and how to go about forming them. Although it is challenging to establish and maintain coalitions with so many different community and student groups, it is clear that the collaboration between such diverse crowds is better suited to mobilize the entire population for Palestinian rights.
Solidarity with Palestinian Political Prisoners
In light of the prisoner exchange recently agreed upon between Hamas and the Israeli government, the issue of political prisoners cannot be ignored. The purpose of this workshop was to highlight the various injustices faced by Palestinian prisoners currently held by Israel and to contrast their situations with Israel’s attitude toward Gilad Shalit. Of the thousands of Palestinians currently held behind bars, many of them have yet to be indicted or are being prosecuted without a fair trial. This is an issue that has typically been ignored by the mainstream media, but with the news of prisoner swaps dominating the headlines, this is the perfect time to spread knowledge about the thousands of Palestinians suffering torture and humiliation on a regular basis.
Upon completion of the two rounds of workshops, students convened for a final session to propose ideas for campaign expansions and to discuss the future of SJP on a national, regional, and local level.
(smpalestine.com / 18.10.2011)