Photo Credit: @PalestineToday
Two recent opinion pieces published in The Daily Bruin, Tammy Rubin’s article entitled “Apartheid wall does not facilitate healthy dialogue on Arab-Israeli conflict” and Emily Resnick’s “Bruins must promote peace, understanding”, were intended to admonish Students for Justice in Palestine and their allies for actions during last week’s Palestine Awareness Week. Both articles were rife with factual errors and rhetorical fallacies, only a few of which I can properly illuminate within this response.First I shall address Tammy Rubin’s article, which suggests that SJP’s display of the apartheid wall in Bruin Plaza was a burden to those who “simply hope to get to class on time”. It only takes a moment of reflection to recognize the absurdity of this comment, as we did not in any way preclude students from proceeding to their classes.
Rubin then goes on to say that Bruin Plaza was not an appropriate venue for SJP’s permitted political speech. This perplexes me, as the university has historically been a site of political engagement, from the movement to end the Vietnam War to the recent Occupy UCLA encampments. Nelson Mandela himself claimed that the UC system’s divestment from South Africa was a major catalyst in the movement to end apartheid in the 1980’s and 90’s, thanks in part to the 61 UC Berkeley students who were arrested after building a shantytown in front of their chancellor’s office. UC students have played a vital role in international social justice movements of the past, so why not now?
In closing, the article refers to SJP’s mock wall as an “intimidating, one-sided presentation”. Many of us feel as though the actual wall that carves through the West Bank, separating farmers from their farmland and limiting Palestinians’ access to health care, work and education, can be described using those same words.
And what of Bruins for Israel’s yearly celebration of “Israeli Independence Day”, known to Palestinians as “al-Nakba” (“the catastrophe”) in that same venue? Is it appropriate to celebrate the expulsion of over 700,000 Palestinians from their land, or is it an event that, to borrow Rubin’s words, “severely marginalizes thousands of students on campus”?
Over 50 students silently stood up during this speech and filed out the door, only to have hate speech leveled at them during a subsequent rally outside the building. During this time, a pro-Israel student shouted to us, a crowd of largely people of color: “you all look like terrorists!” and yelled derogatory remarks about Muslim women’s hijabs, evoking the all-too-recent images of racist and sexist slurs scrawled against apartment doors. Instead of using her position of power to show support for these marginalized populations facing the very real concerns of racism and Islamophobia, Resnick glibly equivocates our criticisms of the Israeli state with accusing all Israelis of genocide.
To the contrary, SJP is delighted to work with Israelis and Jews who denounce the occupation and support equal rights for Palestinians. Among us in this walkout was Jewish Voice for Peace activist Estee Chandler, who recently had a poster put up on the front porch of her home featuring a picture of her and reading “WANTED for treason and incitement against Jews”. The poster included the names of her nieces and nephew and revealed her work address. Also among us was a young Jewish woman who cannot be named because of the threat of being disowned by her family and community for supporting the Palestinian people. It is not our intention to tokenize them in such a way as to say, “look, we have Jews too!”, but merely to show that the plight of Jewish anti-Zionists is indeed very real, not unlike the struggle of young whites who sympathized with the movement for the equal rights of blacks in the segregated South.
Much like the effort to integrate our own country, the struggle for true peace and justice in Palestine and Israel will require the concerted efforts of people from all communities affected. This includes us, the American taxpayers who send $8.2 million per day in military aid to Israel, more than we send to any other country.
Despite all this, Resnick uses her position of power in USAC to determine that “campus climate” is something that can be somehow defiled by non-violent protest, but she refuses to denounce the acts of hatred on the part of counter-protesters. Should we defer to her opinion, or look to the longstanding history of social justice struggles and third world solidarity on this campus as integral to the fabric of student life?
The incident itself was documented in a recent YouTube video entitled “Why Don’t We Dialogue?”: SJP-UCLA’s IDF Walkout. I invite readers to watch this video and decide for themselves whether or not SJP’s action was inappropriate conduct.