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KSJP hosts Pranav Jani for lecture on Palestine, nationalism

KSJP hosts Pranav Jani for lecture on Palestine, nationalism

Jani at the start of his lecture. | TADHG SAHUTSKE

Kenyon Students for Justice in Palestine (KSJP) hosted Pranav Jani, an associate professor of English at The Ohio State University, for a Monday lecture titled “Key Words for Palestine: Turning Knowledge Into Action.” Approximately 50 people attended the event, which was split into three sections: ‘Who is my Audience And What is Going on Right Now,’ ‘Structures of Power’ and ‘Understanding 1948.’

Jani holds a master’s degree in English literature from Indiana University and a doctorate in English literature from Brown University. He is also the author of Decentering Rushdie: Cosmopolitanism and the Indian Novel in English.

Jani began his lecture with, ‘Who is my Audience and What is Going on Right Now?’ This section outlined exactly what audience Jani hoped to reach. Of course, his first audience was the pro-Palestinian students and organizers who had invited him, but Jani said that his second audience was progressive liberals who are sitting on the fence on the Israel/Palestine conflict: “Those of you who, most of the time, find yourself on the side of diversity and inclusion, find yourself on the side of anti-racism, find yourself on the side of anti-colonialism, but on this issue, you find yourself confused about which position to take.” He explained that this was the primary audience in mind when writing the presentation and that the lecture would explain the progressive logic behind support for a Palestinian state. 

The ‘What is Going on Right Now?’ portion examined statistics and quotations, providing grounding for the audience.  Jani described how over 31,000 Palestinian people have been killed since Oct. 7 and, in that same time span, more children have been killed in Gaza than in the last four years of global warfare combined. Quoting Palestinian poet Sara Abou Rashed, Jani said, “We are seeing a genocide televised live.” He also brought attention to the 130-plus Israeli hostages as victims of war, in addition to the Palestinians detained in Israel: 2,070 as sentenced prisoners, 3,558 in administrative detention and 793 as unlawful combatants.

The second segment centered around structures of power. In this portion of the lecture, Jani defined terms such as colonialism, imperialism and orientalism. For each term, he made a claim stating how Israel or the United States has utilized these systems of power to carry out Palestinian oppression. Jani said that by these definitions, Israel was a settler-colonial state, comparing the West Bank and Gaza to a Bantustan  in apartheid South Africa or the Jim Crow South.  “Until the ’60s, in the first wave of successful anti-colonial independence movements, designers were not ashamed to call their project colonization,” Jani said. “This idea that this is colonization is not something made up — it was actually a part of their own language at the time.” 

The third segment, titled ‘Understanding 1948,’ focused primarily on the concepts of nationalism, antisemitism and protest. Throughout this portion of the lecture, which examined the term ‘nationalist’ in a broader context, Jani argued for critical analysis and support of anti-colonial nationalist causes. “Nations and nationalism became the form through which people fought for freedom and articulated their desire for freedom, including minorities within nations. Think about Black nationalism in the United States, which doesn’t see the nation-state as a goal. But [it] still functions as a kind of nationalism,” Jani said.  

After this, he pivoted to antisemitism, claiming that the definition of antisemitism is used as a political tool against the existence of a Palestinian state. He contrasted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition, which labels criticism of Israel as a state as antisemitic, with the Jewish Declaration on Antisemitism and Jewish Peace Association definitions, which say that support for Palestinians’ demand for justice and full political national civil rights is not antisemitic.

Following the lecture, there was a short Q&A section on subjects ranging from thoughts on current events to effective strategies in organizing.

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