The Muslim Student Association at UCSD hosted the annual Justice in Palestine Week from May 6 to May 9. The week-long event, centered on wooden banners discussing the Israeli occupation of Palestine, included a variety of evening speaking engagements.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is an ongoing struggle of nationhood between Israelis and Palestinians which has continued on for over 50 years. While the current boundaries between the two states were drawn up in an armistice agreement following the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, the conflict has persisted, most recently with Israeli settlement in the West Bank and a continuous military conflict in the Gaza Strip, both regions of Palestine.
A description on the event’s Facebook page written by the UCSD MSA explained that the goal of the week is to offer education about the conflict.
“We have a moral responsibility to educate ourselves on the history of an illegal occupation,” the description read. “It is with this intention, that we embark on learning about the current struggle of the Palestinian people.”
Topics for the evenings included a seminar on the difference between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism, the history of the Israeli occupation of designated Palestinian lands, and a panel of speakers who shared their experiences as both Palestinians and Palestinian Americans.
In addition to the nightly speaking events, members from the MSA tabled on Library Walk with donuts and coffee to have conversations with students. They also had a letter writing table for students to write their Congressional representatives in support of H.R. 2407, a bill that would prevent Israel from using U.S. military aid to detain Palestinian children.
A student from the MSA who wished to remain anonymous for fear of future employment repercussions for going on the record as supporting Palestine, told the UCSD Guardian that the use of the word “conflict” does not accurately describe the relationship between Israel and Palestine.
“We don’t like to call it a conflict because that (word) implies that the two parties are on equal footing,” the student said. “What Israel is doing to the Palestinian people is oppression.”
The student went on to talk about how the goal of the week-long event is to bring awareness to the issue rather than to outright bring an end to it.
“A lot of people have a misunderstanding (on the situation), so we are trying to create awareness,” the student said. “We’re not trying to create a solution; we (just) want people to know what is going on. The way we can resist is through peaceful protest.”
The student later said that on Wednesday, May 8, tensions rose during the tabling event when allegedly several students from Hillel confronted the MSA.
“Yesterday we had some heated stuff from (Hillel) students who came to stop what we were doing and (were) trying to get us to do stuff we don’t want to do,” the student said. “Hillel sent (us) an email as a response to what we’re doing stating that they have spies around the wall to report on what we’re doing.. They painted over our (painting) in graffiti art park. Why are they doing this now when we (only) do this once a year?”
Hillel did not respond to emails from the Guardian to address these claims.
Dr. Farid Abdel-Nour, a professor of Political Science and Islamic and Arabic Studies at San Diego State University, gave a talk Monday night titled “on this land… The Palestinian Plight & History of an Illegal Occupation.” Dr. Abdel-Nour told the Guardian that events like Justice in Palestine are necessary to shed light on a conflict that is often forgotten.
“What makes the injustice they suffer particularly worthy of campus attention is that… the messaging coming out of official US governmental channels and from the mainstream of the Republican and Democratic parties tends to obscure the grave injustice that Palestinians have suffered for over 71 years now, and that they continue to suffer,” Dr. Abdel-Nour said. “The academy is where difficult truths must be told, especially when the government circulates lies.”
Dr. Abdel-Nour said that events like those at UCSD had previously taken place on campus at San Diego State University. However, several incidents occurred at the university that caused students who had been active within the “Free Palestine” movement to be fearful to express their points of view.
“I very much regret that no such event has taken place over the last couple of years,” Dr. Abdel-Nour said. “SDSU students who were active in Palestine solidarity work were attacked, intimidated, and threatened in 2016, and regrettably this had a chilling effect on their solidarity work. My hope is that they will put this fear behind them and resume their important work in future years.”
Reaffirming the goal of the movement, Dr. Abdel-Nour said that the purpose of the “Free Palestine” movement is centered around equality.
“The Palestinian people’s struggle is a demand that they be treated as equals, that their interests, dreams, aspirations, fears, and suffering be taken seriously,” Dr. Abdel-Nour said. “The dynamic of this conflict from the early 1900s until today is one in which the Palestinian people were treated as if they are an inconvenience, as if they are an obstacle, in the way of someone else’s dream … Their struggle was and remains about being treated as equals.”
The UCSD MSA meets periodically throughout the quarter. In addition to the annual Justice in Palestine Week, the MSA has hosted other events, including Anti-Colonialism Day, Islam Awareness Week, and a program on Islamic Studies.
Photo Courtesy of Jacob Sutherland.
Article updated to clarify that the anonymous student claimed that the counter demonstrators were from Hillel.