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Palestine Solidarity Movement: Backgrounder
Posted: October 6, 2004

The Palestine Solidarity Movement is a relatively new umbrella organization that brings together various, primarily university-affiliated anti-Israel groups. Its primary focus is the so-called divestment campaign against Israel, which it began in 2002 as a way to try to portray the Palestinian cause as a struggle for justice against the "racist and apartheid" state of Israel.

Although dozens of professors have signed on to divestment petitions on many campuses, the divestment campaign's arguments have not been persuasive to mainstream Americans and the overall results have not been successful. To date, no college or university has ended its investments in companies that do business in Israel. This fact has not halted the PSM, which continues to use divestment as a means to organize anti-Israel activists, especially on campus

The PSM has refused to condemn violent acts against Israelis, stating that "as a solidarity movement, it is not our place to dictate the strategies or tactics adopted by the Palestinian people in their struggle for liberation."

In its short existence, the PSM has held major student conferences at Berkeley, the University of Michigan, Rutgers University, and The Ohio State University - the last two competing with each other as a result of factional fighting. Originally, one conference only was planned, but internal disagreements caused the movement to split, and two separate divestment conferences were held.

Past national PSM conferences include:

The Ohio State University - November 7 - 9, 2003, Columbus, Ohio
The OSU conference was hosted by the local Committee for Justice in Palestine and attracted about 200 people. Attendees reaffirmed their commitment to the movement's guiding principles, including language that equates Zionism with racism.

Rutgers - October 10 - 12, 2003, North Brunswick, New Jersey
The conference was hosted off campus by New Jersey Solidarity, which calls for the dismantling of Israel and its replacement by a Palestinian state. Conference supporters included Al-Awda, while endorsers included the Islamic Association for Palestine, an anti-Semitic organization that reportedly has had ties to Hamas and the Holy Land Foundation.

Resolutions adopted during the conference included a refusal to condemn Palestinian terrorism, a commitment to the divestment campaign and an affirmation of the movement's claim that "Zionism is racism." Conference attendees also reaffirmed the movement's goals: the right of return for Palestinians, a "full decolonization of all Palestinian land" and an end of the "Israeli occupation of…all Arab lands."

To provide alternative perspectives and help balance the volume of anti-Israel rhetoric coming from the PSM conference, ADL's New Jersey Regional Office took part in an "Israel Inspires" rally at Rutgers University that kicked off a yearlong series of pro-Israel activities designed by students to counter the message of anti-Israel activists with accurate and factual information on the state of Israel and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

University of Michigan - October 12-14, 2002, Ann Arbor, Michigan
The second national PSM conference, held at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, attracted about 400 people, included former University of South Florida Professor Sami al-Arian, (currently awaiting trial on charges of providing support to the Palestinian terrorist organization Islamic Jihad). Representatives of Al-Awda sold T-shirts with the inscription "Intifada! Palestine will be free from the river to the sea." The slogan was also shouted by conference-goers confronting a handful of protesters outside the building.

University of California, Berkeley - February 16-18, 2002, Berkeley, California
The first national PSM conference was initiated by Students for Justice in Palestine, a student group from the University of California, Berkeley, in conjunction with the San Francisco chapter of the Arab American Anti-Discrimination Committee. It was supported by a coalition of mostly far-left and radical Muslim groups (student and non-student). One of the resolutions adopted at the first PSM conference expressed an unreserved support for the Intifada: "We, the national student movement for solidarity with Palestine, declare our solidarity with the popular resistance to Israeli occupation, colonization, and apartheid." On the issue of Palestinian violence, the resolution also stated that "as a solidarity movement, it is not our place to dictate the strategies or tactics adopted by the Palestinian people in their struggle for liberation."

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