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New Student Group Aims to Unite Pro-Palestine Advocates Across Harvard’s Graduate Schools

Graduate students share their experiences living in Israel and Palestine in a discussion hosted by the newly launched Graduate Students 4 Palestine on Tuesday evening.
Graduate students share their experiences living in Israel and Palestine in a discussion hosted by the newly launched Graduate Students 4 Palestine on Tuesday evening. By Liza A de Figueiredo
By Jo B. Lemann and Asher J. Montgomery, Crimson Staff Writers

Graduate students across Harvard launched a new pro-Palestine activism group called Graduate Students 4 Palestine with an event Wednesday.

The new organization will create a network for graduate students in different schools at Harvard organizing around Palestinian rights, according to Harvard Divinity School student Elom Tettey-Tamaklo, an organizer for GS4P.

“The basic idea is for there to be an institutional home for all grad students who are interested in Palestine and advocacy around Palestine, and for us to advocate with a united voice around the questions of Palestine within the University and beyond,” Tettey-Tamaklo said.

Undergraduates have long organized for Palestinian rights through the Harvard College Palestine Solidarity Committee, which provided inspiration for the graduate student group, according to organizers.

Tettey-Tamaklo said he sees value in graduate students from different schools coming together in their advocacy for Palestine.

“The uniqueness of GS4P is within each school, folks are approaching the question of Palestine from their unique perspectives,” he said.

Organizers also said they hope to use their influence as Harvard students to create change.

“The brand of Harvard garners a lot of attention, so the things that we’re doing, the things that we’re talking about, how we’re advocating for Palestine, it goes beyond the walls of the institution, and it’s such a perfect space and opportunity for us to do this work,” Tettey-Tamaklo said.

The formation of the student group comes roughly a month after “PalTrek,” a funded, weeklong trip to Palestine over spring break that aims to “introduce trekkers to Palestinian culture, history, and people, to foster understanding of the reality of life under military occupation, and to highlight the Palestinian narrative,” according to the organization’s website.

Harvard Kennedy School student Maya R.F. Alper said she believes PalTrek created a new spur of pro-Palestine advocacy among Harvard graduate students.

“Coming back after PalTrek, there’s been this renewed sense of urgency around organizing around Palestine,” Alper said. “The opportunity to be in Palestine, to hear from Palestinians in their own homes, on their own terms, in their own words about their story was incredibly powerful for me, and so I felt that call to relay those stories really urgently.”

HKS students outside of GS4P, including Alper, hosted a teach-in Tuesday to talk about their experiences on PalTrek. Though Alper is not currently part of GS4P, she said she sees value in creating a united front of pro-Palestine advocacy.

“Finding a way to bring all of the folks together — all these disparate grad students under one umbrella — is really important, since sort of the core of this kind of organizing work is solidarity and showing up for one another,” Alper said.

HKS student Kartikeya Bhatotia, who helped organize the teach-in, said he believed it was important to provide a Palestinian perspective to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict during the event.

According to Bhatotia, who attended PalTrek, pro-Palestine organizers are hoping to increase the representation of Palestinians on campus by aiding them during the application process and brainstorming a long-term strategy to provide resources for Palestinians on campus.

“I was a participant on the Trek, but I am now participating in the post-Trek activities because we decided that it was important to bring Palestinian voices on campus, just to have a fair representation,” Bhatotia said.

—Staff writer Jo B. Lemann can be reached at jo.lemann@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @Jo_Lemann.

—Staff writer Asher J. Montgomery can be reached at asher.montgomery@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @asherjmont.

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