Penn Law Students Boycott University-Sponsored Israel Trip
Penn Law students are petitioning against trips to Israel that are sponsored by the University of Pennsylvania.
The Penn Law Students for Justice in Palestine (PLSJP), a newly-formed student organization, released a statement this month discouraging students from joining itrek, an annual week-long trip to Israel for graduate students in business, law, policy, and STEM, The Daily Pennsylvanian reports.
“While we certainly understand the appeal of a heavily subsidized Mediterranean vacation, the trip is not what it may appear to be,” the statement reads. “Itrek is a politically motivated endeavor, meant to whitewash and perpetuate Israel’s decades-long oppression and dispossession of Palestinians. We urge you not to participate.”
The student group highlights the displacement of Palestinians as a major reason behind boycotting the itrek program. Since July 19, the statement had garnered over 50 signatures from Penn community members.
“The itrek trip affords you access that is denied to the Indigenous Palestinian population and the Palestinian diaspora,” the statement reads. “The majority of Indigenous Palestinians were forcibly removed from the lands you will be visiting in 1948 and 1967. Most were expelled to surrounding countries and are prohibited from returning despite their right to do so under international law.”
Additionally, the group cites low rates of COVID-19 vaccination in the region as another reason to not partake in the program.
“Since you are vaccinated and Israel shows a high vaccination percentage, you may think that traveling during the pandemic to Israel may be ethical according to health and safety standards,” the statement reads. “However, Palestinians have been denied care, resources, and assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic and as such, are largely unvaccinated and susceptible to contracting and ultimately succumbing to COVID-19. Even if you are vaccinated, you can still carry and transmit COVID-19. Your presence in Israel can further endanger Palestinian lives, lives which are already suffering at the hands of Israel and do not have access to the vaccine or the medical care that you and most Israelis do/have had.”
Tasneem Warwani, an incoming first-year law student at Penn Law and PLSJP Co-President, says the itrek program is, in many ways, propaganda for the Israeli government.
“On trips like itrek, even though you’re exposed to Palestinian voices, a lot of it is portrayed very neutrally or very much as if there are two sides,” Warwani tells The Daily Pennsylvanian. “When you have situations of oppression and apartheid, you don’t have two equal sides. These trips are specifically targeted towards students who are the leaders of our future in order to get them to advocate for Israel when they come back as leaders in society.”