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“We Feel Unheard”: Hunger-Striking Princeton Students Vow to Fast Until Divestment Demands Are Met

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Over a dozen students at Princeton University have been on hunger strike for the past week as part of a Gaza solidarity encampment on campus protesting Israel’s war on Gaza and calling on the university to disclose and divest from companies with ties to Israel, among other demands. The hunger strikers are also calling for all charges to be dropped against a number of students arrested on campus in late April as part of the encampment. Areeq Hasan, a graduating senior at Princeton who has not eaten for a week, tells Democracy Now! the hunger strike was a response to the university’s stonewalling. “We feel unheard at every step of the way, so therefore we resorted to a hunger strike,” says Hasan, noting the long history of hunger strikes as a means of protest. “It is in solidarity with the history of Palestinian political prisoners since 1968. … We’re tapping into this long-standing tradition with both Palestinian political prisoners and also in the Irish and Indian liberation movements.”

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Transcript
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman.

At Princeton University, over a dozen students have been on hunger strike for the past week as part of a Gaza solidarity encampment on campus protesting Israel’s war on Gaza and calling on Princeton to disclose and divest from companies with ties to Israel, among other demands. Ten faculty members are reportedly joining the students’ hunger strike today. In addition to divestment, the hunger strikers are also calling for all charges to be dropped against a number of students arrested on campus in late April as part of the encampment.

For more, we go to Princeton, where we’re joined by one of the students who have been on a zero-calorie hunger strike for the past seven days. Areeq Hasan is a graduating senior at Princeton, majoring in electrical and computer engineering.

We want to thank you so much for being with us. Can you start off by talking about why you went on this fast?

AREEQ HASAN: Certainly. Well, the university has refused to respond to our demands. We have engaged in various other forms of sort of trying to engage with the administration to divest from its investments in Israel, and they have refused to respond to our demands, ignored us. And we feel unheard at every step of the way, so therefore we resorted to a hunger strike.

A hunger strike, in particular, as the means — as the medium for this sort of means of pressuring the administration was chosen because it is in solidarity with sort of the history of Palestinian political prisoners since 1968. They have used hunger strikes, freshwater and saltwater hunger strikes, as a mean of protest. And so, it is essentially, yes, our sort of — we’re tapping into this long-standing tradition with both Palestinian political prisoners and also in the Irish and Indian liberation movements. There is sort of a long history of hunger strikes that we’re also tapping into here.

AMY GOODMAN: And can you talk about the response? I also understand one of the hunger strikers — I mean, you haven’t eaten anything for seven days now — went to the ER yesterday?

AREEQ HASAN: That’s correct, yeah. Yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: And how long do you plan to carry this out? Talk about the demands and Princeton’s response.

AREEQ HASAN: Sure. So, our demands are very simple. One is, we just want a meeting with the university to discuss disclosure, dissociation and divestment from Israel. And two is complete amnesty for our peers who have been unjustly criminalized, barred from campus and evicted after the sit-in at Clio Hall. Those are our demands. And, sorry, what was the second half of your question?

AMY GOODMAN: What has been the university’s response, Areeq?

AREEQ HASAN: Right. So, essentially, you know, we’ve had — we’ve been able to have some meetings with the university, but they’ve been completely sort of — they haven’t budged at all. They keep sort of citing processes that we can use in order to meet our demands, but the issue is that these processes take sort of on the order of months to years in order to actually realize any change, in addition to potentially just being administrative loopholes, like administrative sort of blocks to actual progress. And, of course, you know, the timescale of these processes are completely disregarding the urgency of the crisis in Rafah, in Gaza, and in Palestine, in general, and just shows disregard for the lives in Palestine that are being lost right now.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about the negotiations that are going on with the Princeton President Christopher Eisgruber? You weren’t part of the meeting. And I just want to say, for not eating for seven days, you’re incredibly lucid.

AREEQ HASAN: Yeah. So, with respect to the negotiations, essentially, yeah, like, none of them have been good-faith negotiations. All of them have been sort of, you know, like, regarding — basically, just citing due process. Like, every single time, like, we try to bring up any demand, they try to direct us to some process that, you know, has never historically sort of yielded any fruit. And it’s important to know this, because the precedent here is that these sort of processes that they claim are the path to take here were not sort of the practice of the university, you know, with the Black Justice League and other sorts of forms of other protests at Princeton. You know, they’ve circumvented these processes before. And, you know, this sort of goes to show that there is this Palestinian exceptionalism that we see here. Yeah, so, essentially, the point being that, like, these negotiations aren’t really good-faith negotiations.

AMY GOODMAN: So, graduation is May 28th. What are your plans until then?

AREEQ HASAN: So, with regards to the hunger strike, we will continue to strike until the university responds to our demands. With respect to other things, you know, we’re sort of voting democratically at our town hall meetings at the liberated zone. So, we’re deciding as a group how we want to proceed. But, yeah, with respect to the hunger strike, we will continue indefinitely.

AMY GOODMAN: And President Biden has said that he will be halting some bombs being sent to Gaza to show that he doesn’t support what Netanyahu is doing if he invades wholesale on the ground, an invasion of Rafah. Your response to his overall approach? When Biden was asked, “Do these protests around the country make a difference?” he adamantly said, “No,” but then announced that they would be halting some weapons.

AREEQ HASAN: Sorry. You’re asking for my response to that? Is that —

AMY GOODMAN: Yes. Yes, Areeq.

AREEQ HASAN: I mean, you know, this clearly — this seems like sort of cognitive dissonance, in the sense that, like, we still have these sort of investments, like as a country, in the military-industrial complex. Like, it just seems like a very superficial way of trying to, you know, like, publicly show that, like, perhaps you’re trying to appease the crowds. But, of course, like, we all know the underlying reality of, you know, the deeply rooted investments of the United States in Israel. So, this just seems like, you know, superficial.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you so much for being with us, Areeq Hasan, graduating senior at Princeton majoring in electrical and computer engineering. He’s on the seventh day of a hunger strike, along with about a dozen Princeton students. Faculty are also joining that fast today.

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Senate Candidate Larry Hamm on ’70s Anti-Apartheid Protests at Princeton and Voting “Uncommitted” in NJ

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