Students Hold Peaceful Protests

Activists from the Muslim Student Association (MSA) and Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) grouped their events in what they called “Justice in Palestine Week,” while Tritons for Israel (TFI) called its events “Israel Solidarity Week.”

The largest display on Library Walk was the visual representation of the Israeli West Bank Barrier, built out of large wooden panels by members of SJP and the MSA. The wall was painted with statistics, graphs and images of the Israel-Palestine conflict. According to MSA member Omar Ahmad, it took three years and cost roughly $7,000 to build. 

Ahmad says that this year, the groups were careful to include sources for all the statistics on the wall at the bottom of the panels. 

“Many people don’t want to support us,” Ahmad said. “We want them to know that we’re not making this stuff up, out of the blue.”

MSA member Saad Yazdani said that local San Diego media outlets, like ABC and NBC 10, have tried to depoliticize the issue in their coverage of the events last week. 

“The Palestinian narrative has been misrepresented by the media, and this week, we’re trying to correct that,” he said. “They normalize the conflict; they make it out like it’s okay for it to happen, because it’s complicated, when it’s not. It’s a humanitarian crisis, simply put. Gaza Strip is one of the world’s largest open-air prisons.”

TFI president Daniel Friedman said Israel Solidarity Week was created because Jewish students on campus were feeling targeted by the claims made by SJP and MSA. 

“There’s an international movement against us,” Friedman said. “Just as with the American government, not everyone agrees with every Israeli policy. But using words like ‘racist’ or ‘apartheid’ to describe an entire nation what that does is imply that the entire state is racist, that the entire state is bad.”

Friedman said the rhetoric of the pro-Palestinian groups was not accurate, and the TFI displays were constructed to convey that. 

“It’s not like everything [on the pro-Palestine groups’ boards] is a lie, but when terms like ‘ethnic cleansing’ and ‘genocide’ are thrown around, it misrepresents what’s actually happening,” he said. “What’s happening is a conflict.”

Student activists set up between 6:30 a.m. and 7:30 a.m. every morning, and took down their displays every evening between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. TFI members handed out pamphlets on human rights and answered questions at “Lunch and Learn” events on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday. Pro-Palestine student activists walked up and down Library Walk holding signs for their “Silent Protests,” which occurred during passing periods on all four days of the event. 

The two groups held various speaker series and solidarity events throughout the week. On Monday, MSA held a speaker series featuring Nasser Barghouty titled “What is Apartheid?” discussing the nature of inequality in the Middle East. SJP held a spoken word event on Tuesday, featuring poetry, written and read by UCSD students,   that advocated Palestinian liberation. 

In response, TFI held a panel on Wednesday on the Israel-Palestine conflict featuring two UC professors and a graduate student. On Thursday, TFI arranged for a non-Muslim Iranian refugee to the United States to speak about the problems in the Middle East.

The wall built by MSA and SJP that stretched throughout Library Walk was twice as large as it was when it debuted two years ago. 

“It’s impossible to miss now,” Ahmed said. “But even as it stands, it’s not enough to convey all the information. Maybe one day it’ll cover the entire Library Walk. But hopefully not, because that would mean the problem would still be unsolved.”