Students advocate for Palestinian statehood

first_imgCorrection: An earlier version of this article stated that Professor Fayez Hammad spoke “…about the Middle Eastern conflict in the context of today and its conception in 1948 when the state of Israel was established.” He did not discuss these topics. In the Palestinian-Israeli dispute, 43 percent of U.S. millennials side with Israel, the lowest the figure has ever been, and 27 percent sympathize with Palestine, which is the highest share of any generation. Campus movements across the nation have gathered around the Palestinian cause. At USC, there exists a branch of the national group Students for Justice in Palestine. Last Thursday, SJP hosted “Palestine 101,” an event dedicated to informing students about the history of Palestine and the pro-Palestinian movement taking place today. The event was made “for students by students,” according to its coordinators, and around 35 students attend the lecture by Professor Fayez Hammad of the School of International Relations and department of political science. Hammad stated during the lecture that the “Arab-Israeli conflict has become a Palestinian-Israeli conflict again.”“This event is an annual thing for SJP and across campuses and across universities,” said the USC SJP President, who wished to remain anonymous to protect herself from retaliation by anti-Palestinian groups online. “Its aim is to raise awareness about the conflict from a Palestinian perspective and one which really shines light on the struggle of the Palestinian people and the geopolitical complexities that have given rise to this occupation.”According to the student organization’s president, support for the pro-Palestine movement is growing on college campuses in general, which she attributes to organizations like SJP and Jewish Voices for Peace, but at USC, the movement tends to fluctuate with student activity.“At USC, the history of SJP is not a trajectory upwards, it’s more up and down, with moments where it’s super active and moments where it’s kind of been a little more quiet but I do see this as an extremely pivotal point for USC SJP,” the president said.The president added that she approaches the movement from an academic, reading-based point of view and hopes that her colleagues do the same. She hopes to create an environment where students feel free to voice their questions.“I want to bring that to SJP, where people are not afraid to ask questions, where we’re assured of our stance, which is pro-Palestine,” the president said. “But at the same time, we can engage everyone who has doubts maybe around that and I really want to make sure that it is an inviting and open environment for that.”Yet, according to the 2015-2016 Israel on Campus Coalition Campus Trends Report, there was a 12 percent decrease in anti-Israel activity on U.S. college campuses from last year. Additionally, pro-Israel activity increased by 3.5 percent from last year.However, the SJP president also said that it is difficult to engage with the topic at USC, as it can be extremely polarizing and students are often scared to approach it.“I’m not exactly hoping to bridge that gap because I’m not sure how to do that,” she said. “I just really hope people are able to move away from the myths and the biases involved and really understand that this is one of the ongoing struggles of our generation.”Morgan Mamon, a senior majoring in Middle East studies, who is also an active member of SJP, echoed a similar sentiment, adding it is also an understudied topic in the Middle East classes at USC due to its polarizing nature. After Mamon traveled through Palestine and Israel while studying abroad, she realized the scope of the conflict and saw her academic understanding lacking.“To me, it seems that a lot of students at USC are even less educated on the topic, which is why ‘Palestine 101’ is something I’ve been very adamant about taking place this semester,” Mamon said.Mamon added that she wanted the event to be a success because if more students at USC were informed on the topic, more discussion on campus could take place.“If just a broader population at USC can be informed on the topic we could have much more fruitful discussions in the end about a conflict that is so controversial and so polarizing,” Mamon said. “It’s disappointing to me to see the fact that people are so unwilling to talk about it.”Mamon said that because the political climate of the United States tends to lean more pro-Israel, she is glad that the pro-Palestinian movement is growing on college campuses because it’s a move towards balancing out the conversation. She added that she is hoping that this will lead to more engaging discussions on the issue when taking place from a variety of perspectives.“The thing that’s saddest about this conversation in the U.S. is how polarizing it is and how incapable we are of having a real discussion,” Mamon said. “There’s so much detail and history to this place and for us to just pick a side. That is the biggest problem to this conversation in the U.S.”SC Students for Israel co-President Rachel Quinn said in an email to the Daily Trojan that they agreed the pro-Palestinian movement is growing on college campuses. They also believe creating dialogue between the two groups is the key to bridging the gap.“Differing viewpoints are not so uncommon, but nothing will be solved by either side of the conflict being shut off to learning about the other side’s views and beliefs,” Quinn wrote. “Education is also very important in beginning to end the conflict — by creating a multi-cultural dialogue (one of the main things we promote through SCSI), we can become more open to opposing views and work together for a solution we both want.”SCSI’s other co-President Shayna Lewis wrote that along with engaging in meaningful dialogue, the purpose of SCSI is to bring awareness and appreciation of the Israeli culture. This week Hillel, a Jewish organization on campus, is sponsoring “Israel Week” on campus, a weeklong event promoting Birthright, which is a cost-free, 10-day trip to Israel offered to all Jewish young adults, according to their website.“We want to expose students to Israeli culture, through various speakers, workshops and educational seminars,” Lewis wrote. “We partner with other organizations on a regular basis that offer us resources and help us promote dialogue on campus.”Lewis added that she also believes the conflict can be very polarizing for this generation, writing that often it forces people to take a side even though many of them may not have had any first-hand experience with the situation in the Middle East.“However, being associated with either side of the conflict creates the necessity to present an opinion, no matter what that opinion may be,” Lewis wrote. “This association may come from an individual identification with one side or another, but it can also result from societal expectations of where a person seems to fit into the wide range of personnel associated with the conflict.”last_img read more

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