Back in January I reported on the case of Raúl Capín, an independent Spanish photojournalist who is facing potential jail time after photographing police activity at a major public demonstration in February 2013. The case, which has received little attention outside of Spain (aside from an interview I did with Jeffrey McAndrew for his US-based “News and Notes” podcast), has major implications for the present and future of Spanish democracy at a time when the country continues to witness the impact of the infamous Ley Mordaza (Gag Law) that went into effect in 2015. After police were unable to produce sufficient evidence against Capín in advance of his initial trial date in January, the trial was postponed until February 23, and on that day I returned to the courthouse in Madrid to observe the atmosphere surrounding the trial. In the street outside I spoke with a group of Capín supporters. Later I went inside the courthouse, spoke with some of the people gathered there, and waited until Capín emerged from the courtroom. Finally, I left the building and was able to record some of the photojournalist’s remarks as he was greeted by supporters and members of the media outside.
As someone who cares about justice in Palestine and who has written a lot about the global significance of Palestine, I pay close attention to the growing Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement that is seeking to put economic pressure on Israel. So when a group of nearly 40 student activists at Wesleyan Universitydecided to occupy the office of President Michael Roth last month, with divestment from the Israeli occupation as one of their core demands, they had my attention. After digging further into the case, I’ve concluded that it does more than provide an inspiring example of student activism. It also reveals something about the failures of courage that leave many university administrators blunting organized efforts to seek justice in Palestine instead of standing on the right side of history. (Image: https://www.facebook.com/WesDivest)
This afternoon a group of St. Lawrence Universitystudents took to the streets to express their outrage at the level of police brutality in the United States and the impact of police violence on people of color in particular.
Upon hearing the news that student activists at Northeastern University(“a leader in global experiential learning”) were being targeted for punishment by the university administrationin response to their work in solidarity with Palestinians, I was immediately reminded of an episode from my own career as an activist. I was also reminded of how dangerous the impulse of human solidarity can be, at least in the eyes of those who desperately seek to police it and blunt its impact.
Eight years ago today, on December 22, 2003, two of my undergraduate students were denied entry into Israel at the southern border with Egypt. The reason, the helpful border guard told them, was that they were "friends with Arabs." He also told them that they would never be welcome again in Israel. The problem, in other words, was not that they wanted to go to Israel; the problem was that they wanted to go to Palestine. In the eight years since then, the experience of these two young Americans has proven, in its own small way, to be quite prophetic.