MATU Solidarity Statement with Student Encampments at UWM and Across the Country

The Milwaukee Autonomous Tenants Union (MATU) on behalf of its membership expresses deep and enduring solidarity with the student encampment at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee and all such encampments across the world. The students, faculty, staff, and alumni of UWM have demonstrated a radical commitment to ending the genocide being perpetrated against the Palestinian people by the apartheid state of Israel, the United States, the United Kingdom, and other complicit entities. We do not hesitate in labeling these atrocities as genocide and recognize that this genocide did not begin in October of 2023, but rather has been a decades-long process of settler colonial ethnic cleansing, dating back to the end of the 19th century. What the world has witnessed over the past seven months is the actuality of the zionist regime laid bare for all to see; Israel can escalate its campaign of mass murder and displacement with the confidence that it will be protected from consequences by its benefactors, particularly in the United States. 

But the US government is not the only institution funneling money to this murderous regime. Institutions of higher education, and affiliated organizations such as the UWM Foundation, are also invested directly and indirectly in the ongoing genocide of the Palestinian people. The profits derived from our tuition have for years been invested in mutual funds that support industries of oppression, violence, and domination targeting the Palestinian people and facilitating not only mass murder but also systematic displacement. The student encampment movement, demanding full and immediate disclosure, divestment, and disengagement from all entities complicit in genocide, Israeli or otherwise, has demonstrated the vast contradictions and untenability of the prevailing social order. Contradictions, which exist in every society, are defined by discrepancies between what is said and what is actually done and how these discrepancies express the opposing interests of different groups of people. Once these contradictions stare us in the face, they cannot be unseen. When the US offers unconditional support to the genocidal Israeli regime, it suddenly becomes clear to the masses of people living in the core of world imperialism that our government does not spread democracy and peace throughout the world. The US does not “uphold a rules-based international order” as it so frequently claims. Instead, it pursues world domination using client states or outposts of the US empire, such as Israel (and previously apartheid South Africa) to establish new methods and norms of domination.

In this sense, Israel is both a protege of and testing ground for the United States, a settler colony in its own right based on the genocide of tens of millions of Indigenous People. Upon scrutiny, the parallels between patron and client are striking. The United States funnels billions of dollars in economic and military aid to the zionist entity to test techniques of oppression and warfare against the Palestinians. Land seizures, the demolition of homes, drone surveillance, security checkpoints, political disenfranchisement, imprisonment in torture camps, deprivation of water, food, electricity, and wifi. These are all techniques that have been used for decades against the Palestinians and, in many cases, have been reused by the US to suppress domestic political movements and normalize methods of population displacement. After all, US police and national guard units train with the Israeli occupation forces, sharing techniques for cracking down on protests and, crucially, the removal of families from their homes. In both cases, the police and courts of the settler colonial state use their monopoly on violence to create conditions that are advantageous for the ruling class and to normalize these conditions as part of the dominant ideology.

 The question is, what kinds of atrocities are Americans willing to accept? Traditionally, the American public is often unaware of or indifferent to the atrocities the US government commits and facilitates around the world. Domestically, the prevailing methods of social and economic oppression have become normalized, a self-evident part of everyday life for most people. The mass incarceration of Black and Brown people, draconian immigration policies that threaten millions with indefinite detention and family separation, lack of civil protections against abuse by police and other agents of the state, 2.5 million eviction filings and 1 million evictions carried out annually, increasing wealth disparity between the masses of working people and a tiny capitalist class, and limited political options in a system dominated by two hegemonic political parties. While outrage is expressed from time to time over the worst excesses of this system, the mechanisms of oppression largely remain intact. Any mass movement that seeks to enact widespread systematic change must bring the aspects of our social order- which have become so naturalized as to seem self-evident- into question.

   There has been widespread rejection in the United States of Israel’s genocide of the Palestinians. This is not unprecedented in and of itself. The American public is revolted by images of mass violence and warfare. Even in the cultural malaise of the Cold War, we eventually turned against the US imperialist invasion of Vietnam, with a massive student movement rejecting further involvement in a campaign of mass death that claimed 3.5 million victims. However, the integrity of the US system emerged largely intact from this period of upheaval. The mythology of the United States as a bastion of freedom and democracy, a foil to the alleged evils of communism, remained intact- while the radical anti-war movement faded into obscurity. While there are definite parallels to be drawn between the present opposition to genocide in Palestine and the movement to end US involvement in Vietnam, there are crucial differences that have imbued this movement with the potential to bring the entire social order into question, not just US involvement in a particular set of atrocities.

The imperialist invasion of Vietnam generated a domestic perception that the otherwise moral project of US hegemony had “lost its way,” or had been misled by a few dishonest political leaders. While there were some radicals calling for revolution in the US and an end to world imperialism during this era, many more hoped for a return to (or transformation into) a United States of a higher moral character. No such illusions of an ethical, noble, righteous country can be found today. The movement for the liberation of Palestine inside the United States has advanced ideologically beyond previous anti-war movements. Instead of condemnation of only the immediate acts of genocide unfolding before our eyes, this movement has adopted a deeper historical analysis, one which shows a US incapable of “higher morality” and driven only by the cold, calculated desire for domination and capitalist hegemony. This is what the United States has always been and, unless the masses of people living in the core of imperialism bring it to an end, what it will always be. There is no capitalism with a human face, no righteous basis on which the US empire can be transformed. It must be brought to an end.

This realization is demonstrated every day as the movement for the liberation of Palestine has grown and spread to college campuses across the world. The absolute and total abolition of the genocidal Israeli apartheid state is necessary and must remain at the forefront of this movement. Palestine must be free. Simultaneously, there is an opportunity to cultivate an expanded criticism of the US empire and the myriad of crimes it commits internationally and domestically on a daily basis- crimes that have become so commonplace as to go unnoticed. The full liberation of Palestine can only occur with the toppling of the Israeli regime, and this can only occur with the weakening and toppling of the US empire itself. The reaction to internal dissent has clearly demonstrated its fragility. When the response to millions of people taking to the streets to reject imperialism and the facilitation of genocide is immediate and harsh repression by billion-dollar militarized police forces- this is a sign of inherent weakness. When the empire no longer has a leg to stand on, when the ideological legitimacy of its actions have been thoroughly discredited, the only option left is violence. 

Under these harsh circumstances, an infinite number of possibilities open up before us. Prospective futures where the end of Israeli apartheid and the US empire are guaranteed. Futures that promise the liberation of all humanity. We see those potential futures embedded in the student encampments and express our full and unwavering support for the students of UW-Milwaukee, who have bravely stood up to a corrupt and self-serving administration. They have refused to be bribed, swayed, or moved aside by anything less than total disclosure, divestment, and commitment to the liberation of Palestine.