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U of Minnesota students protest meeting between administration and Israeli consul

By Ren Wischmann

Minneapolis – On March 12, just 16 hours after being notified that the Consul General of Israel Yinam Cohen was meeting with University of Minnesota Vice President Croson, along with a group of Zionist community leaders, Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) pulled together an emergency protest and march starting outside of the Coffman Student Union. Protesters demanded an end to the ties between the university and the state of Israel.

100 students, faculty and community members were then prompted to march across the lawn of the mall and right up to Morill Hall, where they demanded divestment from Israel.

A statement from SDS said, “In the climate of repression of pro-Palestine activism on campus, the genocide being carried out by the illegal Israeli occupation, and an ongoing Department of Education investigation into false claims of antisemitism, this meeting is shameful complicity in Israel’s crimes. Any collaboration by administration with representatives of the settler state of Israel is disgraceful. SDS and SJP fully condemn this reported meeting, as well as all collaborations by the UMN with Israeli universities, study abroad trips in Israel, and investments in entities that benefit from the occupation.”

Since October, SDS has shifted its focus on the still ongoing struggle for liberation in Palestine while spotlighting the role that the university and its upper administration play with their ties and investments in Israel with its ongoing genocide.

Just two weeks ago SDS found out they were put on probation for allegedly “continually violating” the university’s student group posting policy; a tight-lipped set of rules that vaguely state that student groups should only post one poster on every “university-approved board,” which is near to impossible for this group as they are continually targeted by administration, barred from important information, as well as being stood up on many occasions when trying to get meetings with the Student Union of Activities staff. This current probation comes at a very pertinent time in the group's proceeding campaigns.

Students for a Democratic Society were reprimanded last year for similar accusations, regarding posters that targeted the University for its proposed budget cuts to gender and ethnic studies last fall. Merlin Van Alstine, an SDS member and the current admin liaison for the group states, “It was clear then, and it is clear now that the university has placed SDS under probation as retaliation for bringing attention to a subjects they would much rather sweep under the rug!”

SDS member Ava Roots mentions in their speech that “it is unsurprising that our university would try to silence the voices that continue to speak out against their complicity. The place that they [VP Croson and the Consul General of Israel, Yinam Cohen] are meeting today is likely Morrill Hall; the same building that the protesters took to in the late 1960s using their bodies to fill and disrupt the space and to push back against the university for similar political and racial repression.”

Speakers at the emergency action included Student for Justice in Palestine, Anti-War committee, and AFSCME 3800.

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