“Whatever they label us, we know what we’re fighting for”: Interview with a Palestinian organizer in New Jersey – Left Voice is the title of an article hot off the international solidarity press by the Left Voice, an organization which describes itself as “a revolutionary socialist news site and magazine dedicated to fostering a sustained and strategic struggle against every form of capitalist exploitation and oppression. ”
Left Voice member and New Jersey correspondent Samuel Karlin spoke with Yusuf Abouelnaja, a Palestinian American from West Orange and student who has been organizing in his town and in his university. Like many young people, Yusuf has been politicized by the movement for Palestine. Below he describes his experience in the movement, some of the repression he and others have faced, and the importance of solidarity within the movement.
The following is the first question from the interview:
How has this movement for Palestine politicized you?
In the past, I’ve gone to actions, but I’ve never really been an activist. I wouldn’t actively seek protests out, but if I knew they were going on, like, the Black Lives Matter protests, or the Palestinian protests that have been going on in Paterson for the past few years, I’d go to them.
More recently, there was an incident at the Board of Education in our school district, where a board member said a lot of awful things. He was saying that Palestinians are baby killers and rapists. He said we’re evil. Some of it was implied, but most of it he just straight up said.
In response to this, someone I know organized a walkout at the high school. There had been walkouts and protests there before for other movements and that’s never been much of an issue. I mean, my senior year, 2022 we had a direct protest, which was a little bit difficult because they really didn’t want us doing it. This time around there was a lot of backlash, including doxxing and threats of harm to the students. It felt more personal, too, because I’m Palestinian American.
I knew I had to help any way I could. So I connected them with people I know, friends who had been politically active. So when they managed to do the walkout against what the administration and Zionists in our town wanted, I marched with them. And I also gave a speech for the first time. So that’s what really got me started.
Through that, I started meeting a lot of people including groups organizing in South Orange and Maplewood (neighboring towns). In my town, members of the community created the group West Orange for Humanity and I got involved with that.
You can read the full interview at this link.