Students for Justice in Palestine hosts Israeli apartheid week

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The Academic Quad at Occidental College. Alvin Edhitjia Siagian/The Occidental

Students for Justice in Palestine at Occidental (SJP) hosted Israeli Apartheid Week April 8–12 to raise awareness and inform the Occidental community about injustices that the state of Israel perpetuates on the Palestinian population. Throughout the week, guest speakers spoke about Israeli apartheid-related topics such as anti-Zionism movements in academic institutions and the history of the Israeli-Palestinian borders. SJP e-board members also hosted office hours after Israeli Apartheid Week to provide an informal setting for students who had not had a chance to engage with the week’s other events.

Throughout the week, walls made by students from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) stood in the center of campus. According to Jo-Anne Naarendorp (sophomore), SJP at Occidental acquired the boards by reaching out to UCLA through SJP West, a coalition of West Coast SJP chapters. Layal Bata (sophomore) said the boards were placed there as both a representation of the wall that separates Israel from the West Bank as well as art that would incite conversation.

“They were there to start a conversation that we wanted to elaborate on in our events while we were tabling on the quad and all of that,” Bata said. “It was never supposed to be the focus point, it was really just like a supplement to get people talking about it.”

The Jewish Student Union (JSU) kicked off the week with “Alternatives to Zionism & Jewish Political Identity” Monday, April 8. The event emphasized the difference between Judaism and Zionism, as the two are often conflated. Whereas Judaism is a religion, Zionism is defined as “an international movement originally for the establishment of a Jewish national or religious community in Palestine and later for the support of modern Israel.”

Professor of Comparative Literature and SJP coordinator at UCLA Omar Zahzah gave a lecture titled “Academic Unfreedom & the BDS Movement” Tuesday, April 9. BDS stands for “Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions.” In his lecture, Zahzah explained how to resist injustice in Palestine in an American academic setting based on his experience at UCLA. According to Zahzah, UCLA divested their funds from Israeli companies, and a recent op-ed from Halla Keir calls for Occidental to also divest. Additionally, Zahzah spoke about the Canary Mission, a website that keeps records on anti-Israel rhetoric and organizing on North American college campuses who they see as a threat, including Zahzah himself.

Zahzah mentioned how people advocating for justice for Palestine are seeking a comprehensive end to injustice because all injustice is intertwined.

“A comprehensive approach to justice necessitates for a repudiation for all forms of discrimination; oppression that includes anti-Semitism, just as it includes racism, homophobia, so on and so forth,” Zahzah said.

Linda Quiquivix, geographer and interdisciplinary social scientist, gave a lecture titled, “Reflections on Palestine and 1492” Wednesday, April 10 in Choi Auditorium. During her lecture, Quiquivix outlined the history of colonialism and examined how Palestine fit into that landscape. Quiquivix covered topics in Frantz Fanon’s “The Wretched of the Earth,” specifically focusing on ideas about the dehumanization of black and brown people as it relates to the Zionist justification for expanding the state of Israel.

Being a specialist in geography, Quiquivix laid out the origins of Palestines geography.

“A lot of religious fundamentalists, evangelicals, went reading the Bible literally and trying to find out what the boundaries were for the holy land,” Quiquivix said. “And eventually, Palestine starts to get its shape.”

SJP put on a Dabke performance workshop Thursday, April 11 in the Arthur G. Coons (AGC) courtyard. Dabke is a Palestinian native folk dance that is in the country’s cultural history. According to Bata, many students gathered together, performing the dance and holding hands.

“It’s become a symbol of resistance and liberation,” Bata said.

Also Thursday, the Latinx Student Union (LSU) collaborated with SJP to host “Borders and Walls.” Students discussed parallels between the wall in the West Bank and the militarization of the border wall separating Mexico and the United States.

Friday, April 12, SJP hosted a workshop in making tatreez, a Palestinian textile art form that has been prevalent in Palestinian culture for generations.

Bata found it crucial to engage in Palestinian culture outside of politics through workshops in Dabke and tatreez.

“It’s really important to not only like highlight atrocities and highlight justice, but it’s also important that we give the culture the recognition and platform that it deserves,” Bata said.

During his lecture, Zahzah spoke about how the work being done for Palestinian justice in the United States can often feel out of touch with the problem it is attempting to fix, but every push for justice matters.

“What can’t be taken away is the conversion of new hearts and minds and glowing recognition that Palestine is part and parcel of the larger global struggle for justice and freedom,” Zahzah said. “That development is unstoppable and the possibilities can’t be compartmentalized. A campaign ends, but consciousness continues and grows ever outward.”