It is ironic that people on this campus are upset over a mock apartheid wall yet are not upset over the fact that it represents the actual apartheid wall in Israel that blatantly denies Palestinians the right to return to their homelands and restricts their movement through the oppressive body that Israel is and always has been.
Students for Justice in Palestine held a demonstration on Library Mall on Oct. 18, 2018, in memorializing 70 years of occupation the Palestinian people are undergoing today at the hands of Israel. It was a sunny day in the mid-50s with student-painted art canvassed on oversized pieces of Styrofoam. There were students, parents and people who just passed by and took issue with the display, yet Students for Justice in Palestine members were prepared to have conversations and offer factual information to help clear up any questions or concerns people had with the display.
But the fact of the matter is people didn't have a problem with the display because it seemed incorrect or not representative of an actual apartheid wall built to constrain and continue the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people but because it further exposes the human atrocities of Israel. The facts on the wall portrayed only minimal information about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which is expressed as “complicated” by Israeli proponents on this campus.
But when there is a wall, there is nothing complicated about it. It’s a clear representation of oppression, colonialism and genocide, something students on this campus have become desensitized to while completely disregarding the concerns of Palestinian students on this campus. Solving this issue doesn't mean creating dialogue between the oppressed group and the oppressors. Students for Justice in Palestine does not want dialogue with pro-Israeli groups looking to have “conversations” unless they denounce the apartheid state of Israel first.
Students for Justice in Palestine is an organization that every campus needs in order to bring awareness to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through a transparent lens from the perspective of Palestinian people living under the occupation of Israel. One sentiment that was common among people stopping to look at the apartheid wall demonstration was “Don’t Israeli people and Palestinian people live together in Israel?” There is only one right answer to this question: “No, they don’t.”
The apartheid wall represents the 7.2 million Palestinian refugees worldwide. The apartheid wall represents that the Palestinians are the largest and longest suffering group of refugees in the world. One in three refugees worldwide is Palestinian. More than 4.3 million Palestinian refugees and their descendants were displaced in 1948. The Palestinians living on the other side of the wall, the occupied territory, live under insufficient water resources that are less than the World Health Organization’s minimal recommendation of 100 liters of water a day. They face child imprisonment by the Israeli Military Complex for children as young as 14 years old. They found forced demolishment notices for Palestinian people to destroy their homes before Israeli Defense Soldiers came to destroy them themselves.
The importance of Students for Justice in Palestine enlightens conversations about the reality of the erasure of the Palestinian identity. The actions against Palestine by Israel is a way to completely wipe out the existence of Palestinian people in order to fully colonize a land that belongs to a group of people. Students for Justice in Palestine works to bring light to the existence of Palestinian students on this campus who cannot find classes to take that fully take into account the experiences of their people and are left to walk on campus and see TV screens advertising free trips to Israel. More formally known as Birthright, these trips enable UW students to visit Israel without seeing the reality of the Palestinian people. So when Palestinian students go to a campus that promotes propaganda trips to the place they can't visit because of their identity, an organization like Students for Justice in Palestine becomes pretty important in defending the effects this has on the Palestinians living under Israeli apartheid and denouncing criminal acts Israel has committed so Palestinians are unable to return to their homelands.
The background of our advocacy as Students for Justice in Palestine regards having meetings to discuss different issues happening in Palestine from 1948 until today. Holding demonstrations like the apartheid wall demonstrating 70 years of occupation is needed to bring attention to an issue many students on this campus do not know anything about, have been restrictively exposed to only Israel's narrative or, for some, have completely refused to acknowledge the atrocious acts of Israel against the Palestinian people even when all the facts are clear-cut.
We hope that more people on this campus join Students for Justice in Palestine or cause someone to conduct research in order to fully understand the blatant truth of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
So, for students who had a problem with a Styrofoam mock apartheid wall, we suggest taking issue with the real one drilled into the ground in between what is left of Palestine, what you know as Israel, and the occupied territory where Palestinians live under Israeli surveillance and inhumane torture 24/7, every day of their lives.
Zahiah Hammad is the president of Students for Justice in Palestine and a junior majoring in political science and journalism with certificates in African studies and gender and women studies. What are your thoughts regarding the display in Library Mall and the broader Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Send your thoughts to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.