The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

Illinois Rep. Abdelnasser Rashid talks pro-Palestine protesting

Students and community members gathered on Thursday to hear Illinois Rep. Abdelnasser Rashid discuss the ongoing violence in Gaza. The representative spoke about manners by which the Boycotts, Divestments and Sanctions strategy can be used to push for a ceasefire in the region. 

Rashid took office in 2023 from Illinois’s21st District, making him the first Palestinian American to sit in the Illinois House of Representatives. 

The event was organized by Bar None, SJP UIUC and Amnesty UIUC — three student groups that are looking to make a difference in the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict. As a guest speaker, Rashid was able to relate to the student groups through his own college experience. 

“I remember during my time in college, I was very involved in educating people about Palestinian human rights and fighting to make sure that (my) university wasn’t investing in companies that support this military occupation,” Rashid said. 

According to Amnesty UIUC member Kevin Murphy, the University invests in companies that contribute to human rights violations of Palestinians, including Caterpillar and Boeing. 

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As a result, Murphy announced Amnesty UIUC is calling for the University to cease investing in these companies.

Financial pressure is a key aspect of the BDS strategy — a strategy that Rashid believes many Americans should be familiar with.

“The boycott is a time-honored American tradition (that) goes back to the Boston Tea Party and before the government of the United States,” Rashid said. “There are plenty of examples of movements using economic pressure and other leverage to pursue justice.” 

While boycotts are a recurring part of American history and a widely accepted method of protest, anti-BDS legislation has passed in many U.S. states, including Illinois, criminalizing the boycotting of Israel and Israeli settlements. 

“The Illinois BDS law requires the creation of a state-run blacklist of companies that boycott Israel and territories controlled by Israel and compels the state’s pension funds to divest from and prohibit investment in those companies,” said Marco Becerra, a representative of Bar None who spoke at the event. 

Signed in 2015, Illinois’ anti-BDS law was the first of its kind to take action against those who choose not to do business with Israel. Since then, 36 more states have enacted similar laws, making it illegal to boycott Israel or Israel-occupied territory in most of the country.

“It’s not that you’re restricted on doing business with a certain country or entity that operates within that country — it’s that you can’t not do business, which doesn’t really make sense,” Becerra said. 

Even with anti-BDS legislation already in place, Rashid worked toward for a path forward that goes through the channels of the state government.

“It’s straightforward what needs to be done to get something like this revealed,” Rashid said. “We need to educate our legislators, right, educate your state representatives and your state senators about this ill-advised law.”

Through his time as an activist, Rashid has advocated for meeting people where they are.

“I can’t overstate the importance of showing grace to people who you disagree with and working with them to move them along on the journey that they’re on,” Rashid said.


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Michael Bales, Senior Copy Editor
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