Throughout New Jersey, people organizing in solidarity with Palestine have faced repression and harassment from their schools, townships, and local Zionists. One example of this is the experience of high schoolers in West Orange who organized a walkout. This group of students included Palestinians and anti-Zionist Jews. Below is a statement written by a Palestinian student and co-organizer of the walkout, which was read at a vigil in South Orange, New Jersey.
Hello everyone. I need to remain anonymous because of the threats I’ve been receiving, so sadly I cannot say my name, but I’m a senior at West Orange High School and was part of the walkout that occurred on Wednesday, November 22. Basically, I just want to speak on the struggle I faced when planning this walkout. Originally we had it planned for Monday, October 30 after our town’s recent board meeting where board member Robert Ivker went on a tangent on the October 7 attack where he called all Palestinians evil, rapists, and baby killers, which triggered our initial interest in creating the walkout because this town only speaks and supports one side.
Soon after planning, we had to postpone it because grown adults came to the school in protest and jeopardized our safety. GROWN ADULTS came to the school in what they called a “pop-up protest” to scare us and urge us to cancel the walkout because it made kids in the school feel unsafe and they characterized it as antisemitic.
When those people stormed the school, I was in the middle of taking a test so I wasn’t aware of what was going on. My co-organizer, though, was called into the office and was instructed on how to create a proper post saying that we would postpone the walkout to a later date after further educating ourselves on the matter (they hinted that we didn’t know anything and that we were wrong). Meanwhile, the grown adults protesting our walkout were in the lobby next to the office where my co-organizer was, so obviously she was afraid they would see her so she had to hide under the window of the office for her own safety. Everyone brushed this whole event off as if nothing had happened.
Even after we sent out the message on Instagram saying we needed to postpone, parents on the Facebook pages “West Orange 411” and “07052” posted threatening content, like trying to doxx us, threatening rape on us, and said they wanted to kill us and parade our dead, raped bodies around Gaza. They also stated that our walkout is an enormous HIB (harassment intimidation and bullying) violation worthy of expulsion and that free speech doesn’t allow us to incite violence. They said that our first post announcing the walkout was antisemitic because we used “from the river to the sea.” If they were educated, they would know that the phrase advocates for Palestinians to no longer live in an apartheid state, be free of occupation, with equal rights and representation. But the Zionists instead twisted our words to make themselves the victims.
Soon after these threats, we needed to persist and go through with the walkout because we didn’t want them to think that they had won. But this time we got in touch with many different activists from all over who helped us plan more efficiently and helped us keep our identities anonymous. We had groups like Teaching While Muslim, Jewish Voice for Peace, Black Lives Matter Paterson, and The Next Gen come and support. And overall the walkout turned out GREAT: we had over 100 people come to show their support. During the walkout, we did get a bunch of hate though, like people slamming their horn and flipping us off. But we didn’t engage.
Since this walkout, we are still getting death threats but fewer than before. I’m just glad I was able to advocate for my people and my country and call for a ceasefire!