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News and reports

October 17, 2003 | Pages 10 and 11

Rutgers Palestine Conference
By Sarah Grey

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J.–"Palestine inspires, Israel terrorizes!" That was what demonstrators at Rutgers University chanted as the Palestinian Solidarity Conference took place last weekend. About 200 activists came here for the conference, despite intense public opposition from the university administration and even New Jersey Gov. James McGreevey.

Organizers moved the conference off campus after the university refused to provide activists an on-campus space, instead supporting campus Zionists' "Israel Inspires" conference. But on Saturday afternoon, 250 marchers–including Rutgers activist Charlotte Kates, who was the target of threats by pro-Israel extremists in the days before the conference–stood up to Rutgers with an on-campus demonstration for justice in Palestine and free speech at home.

Defiant activists came together for a weekend of lively debate, workshops, panels and protest that was intensified by Israel's latest attacks on Palestinians in Haifa and in Syria. Author Tariq Ali noted that the U.S. occupation of Iraq has met with such strong opposition that the U.S. cannot make good on its threat to attack Syria.

Instead, Israel is doing its dirty work. "It's worth remembering that the empire isn't as powerful as it likes to imagine," Ali said. "What has shaken this empire is the resistance in Iraq."

The crisis in Bush's empire lent a sense of urgency to the Palestine solidarity movement, as activists from around the country argued for unconditional support of the Palestine liberation movement. And conference participants discussed and debated strategies aimed at forcing the U.S. to end its support for the apartheid state in Israel–from organizing campus campaigns to force universities to divest from Israel to building for the October 25 anti-occupation demonstrations in Washington, D.C., and San Francisco.

"Globalize the Intifada," argued Muslim Student Association activist Isma'il Kamal. "We're going to come out on October 25 and let them hear us. Let them hear us in Gaza, in Ramallah, in Jerusalem. Let them hear us all over the world!"

No to war and occupation
By Dina Roy

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C.–About 40 people rallied October 7 in support of Elizabeth Ito, an English teacher at Forsyth Technical Community College (FTCC) fired for speaking out against the war on Iraq in her class. On March 28, as the war on Iraq was raging, Ito held a 10-minute discussion about the war, during which she presented students with antiwar arguments.

After two students complained, a dean told Ito not to express her antiwar ideas in class and asked her to promise not to bring up the war again. Ito told the dean that she had no plans to discuss war again, but she refused to make any promises.

In a letter placed in Ito's personnel file, the dean declared her refusal to promise an act of "insubordination." A month later, Ito was fired, according to the administration, because she was "incompetent" and had received bad evaluations.

However, up until Ito brought up the war in her class, her evaluations were very good. "I have heard from many teachers who have had similar experiences," Ito told Socialist Worker. "Some are sure, and some suspect that they were disciplined or fired for being against the war."

Supporters from local colleges and from the community came out to express their disgust at FTCC's behavior. Ito told the crowd not to shrink from standing up to the Bush administration's lies. "I know in my heart that I am a good teacher," said Ito to the crowd. "But if I never teach another day in my life, may I never remain silent in the face of violence and injustice."

And in New York City, the Antiwar Coalition at Columbia University held an October 7 speak-out against the occupation of Iraq. About 20 people took the mike to speak out against the brutal reality of the occupation and the importance of the resistance in Iraq.

Speakers stressed the importance of the October 25 demonstrations in Washington, D.C., and San Francisco. Many more signed a large banner reading "Free Iraq, end the occupation."

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