Zahra Haider is the events chair for Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) at Northwestern University (NU) .
Haider initiated a film documentary series, entitled "Memoirs of A Stolen Land" in which she interviews Palestinians and anti-Israel activists.
Haider is a student at NU pursuing a degree in Journalism and Integrated Marketing Communications. Haider is active in campus life at NU, serving in both the Student Government and the Student Advisory Council.
Supporting Terrorist Rasmea Odeh
During 2014, Haider was active in protesting the fresh federal charges laid against convicted terrorist-murderer Rasmea Odeh.
Odeh was a key military operative with the terrorist group the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). In 1969, Odeh masterminded a PFLP bombing that killed two college students in a Jerusalem supermarket. Odeh also attempted to bomb the British consulate.
Odeh confessed, in a highly detailed account, the day following her arrest. In a 2004 documentary, one of Odeh’s co-conspirators directly implicated her as the mastermind.
In 1970, an Israeli court tried and convicted Odeh for her involvement in both bombings and sentenced her to life imprisonment. However, Odeh was released 10 years later, in a prisoner swap and emigrated to the United States.
On November 10, 2014, a Michigan federal jury convicted Odeh for immigration fraud because she failed to disclose her prior conviction and life sentence on her immigration application. On March 12, 2015, she was sentenced to 18 months in prison.
In 2017, after an appeal and a lengthy court battle, Odeh admitted to immigration fraud, was stripped of her U.S. citizenship and deported to Jordan.
Haider wrote, recorded and published a poem about Rasmea Odeh on her personal website, in which she referred to Odeh as a victim and accused the court of committing an atrocity.
She was one of 12 co-authors of a Letter to the Editor written to the Daily Northwestern that chastised a J Street U Northwestern-hosted event, which attempted to present both a Palestinian and Israeli perspective on major milestones in Israeli history.
Haider and her co-authors argued that an Israeli perspective on the region's history is inherently invalid and that only a Palestinian narrative showing Israel's "colonialism, occupation and settlements" should be presented. They additionally objected that the presentation did not include an "authentic Palestinian perspective," that presented the "ethnic cleansing of Palestinians" by Israelis and "the systematic uprooting of Palestinians for the Zionist project."
Advocating for BDS on Campus
The NUDivest Resolution, which called for the university to boycott six Israeli corporations, narrowly passed on February 19, 2015 — after a hearing lasting over five hours. Prior to the vote, the NU Divest team campaigned to promote the resolution. Abdullah-Smith presented a pro-BDS workshop to spotlight the "corporations that are profiting off of the illegal occupation of Palestinian lands." NU Divest have continued to put pressure on the university since the vote, most recently through engaging in discussion with the chief Investment Office at NU. Despite this, it was reported in May 2015 that no policy changes or divestment have taken place at NU, which is usually the case following the passing of these non-binding divestment resolutions.
SJP was co-founded in 2001 at the University of California at Berkeley (UC Berkeley) by Professors Hatem Bazian and Snehal Shingavi. Bazian served as president of the General Union of Palestinian Students (GUPS) while studying at San Francisco State University (SFSU) and headed the Muslim Students Association (MSA) while earning his M.A. at UC Berkeley. In 2004, while the second intifada was already winding down in Israel, he called for an intifada in the United States.
Shingavi, an activist tied to the International Socialist Organization (ISO), has been criticized for using his literature course as a vehicle for promoting anti-Israel propaganda. SJP has grown to become the primary student movement advancing the Palestinian national agenda on North American campuses and is the primary force behind BDS campaigns at most schools.
SJP activists frequently intimidate and harass Jewish and pro-Israel students. SJP members have physically assaulted Jewish students, aggressively disrupted pro-Israel events and possibly vandalized communal property. SJP rallies regularly include hate-speech and chants such as "Long Live The Intifada" and "From the River to the Sea Palestine will be Free" — calls for violence and for the destruction of the Jewish state.
SJP chapters frequently run inflammatory campaigns against Israel, including BDS resolutions, rallies, Israel-Apartheid initiatives, propaganda comparing Israel to Nazi Germany, mock checkpoints and "die-ins."
The BDS movement was founded in 2005 by Omar Barghouti and asserts that it "works to end international support for Israel's oppression of Palestinians and pressure Israel to comply with international law."
The movement's most notable achievement has been the infiltration of university campuses through lobbying for "BDS resolutions." In these cases, backed by university anti-Israel affiliates, student governments have brought to vote on some form of boycott of — or divestment from — Israel and Israeli-affiliated entities. These resolutions, although non-binding, have been passed by student governments on numerous North American campuses.
BDS activity is often aggressive and disruptive. It has been noted that universities that pass BDS resolutions see a marked increase in anti-Semitic incidents on campus. In 2013, when the student government of the University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB) debated a BDS resolution, reports emerged of violent threats and the spitting on a student wearing a Star of David necklace. As a result, the student government chose to vote via a "secret ballot" in order to ensure its members' safety.
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