For Immediate Release – October 23 2015
Member of Students for Justice in Palestine at UC Santa Barbara Physically Assaulted While Protesting for Palestinian Lives Lost
An assailant physically assaulted a member of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) at UC Santa Barbara on October 15th, 2015, during an SJP protest for the International Day of Action for Palestine.
The assailant, who appeared to be another student, approached SJP members including Daniel Mogtaderi to engage in debate about a Palestinian child who was widely viewed on Youtube bleeding in the street while Israelis screamed epithets at him. Mogtaderi and the assailant argued back and forth until the assailant learned that Mogtaderi was recording the conversation. At that point he forcibly took hold of the phone, held on to the phone for some time, and shoved Mogtaderi two times before returning the phone and leaving the scene. Multiple witnesses observed the assault. Video of the conversation preceding the assault and its aftermath is available here.
SJP member and witness Edan Mehretu explained, “Our protest was peaceful, with signs made by students bringing to light the oppressive actions by the Israeli government taking place in occupied Palestine over the past month that has resulted in the deaths of ten children as young as two and thirteen years old. We were holding our signs, and talking with students, some who agreed with our message, and some who did not agree. While we were peaceful, we were met with blatant racism and violence.”
The SJP protest also called for justice for Rasmea Odeh, a Palestinian American community member from Chicago who in 1969 was forced to give a false confession after Israeli officials raped her and tortured her for twenty days. The U.S. government recently prosecuted Odeh for immigration fraud and her case is currently under appeal.
Mogtaderi explained, “Before he assaulted me, the assailant was arguing that the killing and torture of Palestinian children is justified. When he realized I was recording our conversation, he slapped the phone out of my hand. I reached for the phone back, and he shoved me hard multiple times. Eventually the crowd convinced him to return the phone and he left. I went to health services to be treated for injuries to my back. It was disturbing.”
SJP strongly condemns acts of violence and the racist remarks and we expect no less than for UC Santa Barbara’s Administration to do the same.
This act of physical intimidation is not an isolated incident, but part of a long history of attempts to stifle the dissent of Palestine supporters – at our university and around the nation. Palestine Legal and the Center for Constitutional Rights recently published a report, The Palestine Exception to Free Speech: a Movement Under Attack in the U.S., showing that they responded to nearly 300 incidents of suppression over the course of 18 months. Eighty-five percent of these incidents occurred on campuses, ranging from harassment, false accusations, baseless legal threats and outright censorship. At UC Berkeley in 2013, a student holding flyers that read “Israel is an apartheid state” was punched in the face and knocked to the ground. At UC Santa Barbara, SJP students have been threatened, spit at, and now assaulted by Israel advocates on campus.