SJP National Conference to take place at Tufts this weekend

Tufts Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) will host the fourth annual National SJP Conference this weekend, from Oct. 24 to Oct. 26.

The conference, titled “Beyond Solidarity: Resisting Racism and Colonialism From the U.S. to Palestine,” is expected to draw 515 participants, including 411 non-Tufts SJP members. Fifty Tufts SJP students, alumni and students from SJP allied groups are also planning to attend, according to Hannah Freedman, SJP media co-coordinator.

Freedman, a junior, said the conference will focus on “understanding how the dynamics that are causing and upholding the current occupation in Palestine are being replicated all over the world.” This year’s conference will include several speakers, workshops and open events.

Saturday’s programming will focus on building participants’ knowledge about the topic, with workshops like “Environmental Justice: Water Rights from Hawaii to Detroit to Palestine” and “The Struggle for Academic Freedom on Palestine on College Campuses,” according to SJP member Munir Atalla. Sunday is about “taking the theoretical knowledge from the first day and applying it to pragmatic, practical skills to better organize on campuses and build a movement,” with sessions like “False Claims of Antisemitism: How to effectively respond” and “Best Practices: How to Do Divestment and Deal with Backlash,” Atalla added.

These workshops and sessions will open only be to registered SJP students, alumni and students from select allied groups, according to Atalla.

“It’s really important for the student Palestine Solidarity Movement to have its own space to organize,’” Freedman said. “Often, on campuses across the country, basically anytime people are speaking outside of the [dominant] narrative, people are being challenged. While some of that is legitimate, it often means that the student Palestine Solidarity Movement is on the defense and can’t ever organize for itself.”

Some events will be open to the public. Keynote speakers include activists, academics and professors who will speak on Friday at 5:45 p.m., Saturday at 10 a.m. and Sunday at 3:45 p.m. in Cohen Auditorium. In addition, on Saturday night at 8:30 p.m., there will be a “Night of Freedom” open to the public and featuring Palestinian music, art, dance, as well hip-hop and spoken word poetry performances.

“We want this conference to be a campus-wide event,” Atalla said. “So all of these great resources that we are bringing to campus can be fully enjoyed and appreciated by Tufts community.”

According to Freedman, Tufts SJP applied to host the conference over the summer, and the National Students for Justice in Palestine (NSJP) confirmed Tufts as the host in August.

“It’s reflective of what a strong chapter of SJP that Tufts has,” Atalla said. “It’s pretty exciting to be chosen for the conference because it means that Tufts is at the forefront of the movement.”

He added that Tufts SJP has been working with the NSJP to plan programs, speakers and events throughout the year. In addition, both Harvard University and Northeastern University are helping to co-host and organize conference events.

From Stanford University to the University of Florida, the conference will draw students from schools all over the country, Freedman said. On their GoFundMe page, Tufts SJP has fundraised over $3,000 to support travel for students from other schools.

“We’ve tried to get free housing for everyone, which of course makes the conference more accessible,” Freedman said.

According to Atalla, most of the students will be staying with Tufts students in dorms or off-campus housing, but with help of a pro-Palestine network in Boston, visiting students will also be staying in Cambridge, Medford, Somerville and downtown Boston.

“We are all here to learn … there are all sorts of people coming from movements we respect, so we are mostly going to learn from each other,” junior Leah Muskin-Pierret, SJP conference logistics point person, said.