EDITOR'S NOTE: This article is first and foremost an event preview, not a policy profile or an attempt at breaking down a political issue. The event organizers were spoken to in order to highlight their reasons for putting on the event.
The UW chapter of Students United for Palestinian Equal Rights (SUPER) have organized Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW), beginning Monday, April 18. The week is part of an international campaign that aims to raise awareness about Israel’s apartheid policies over the Palestinian people and build support for the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement.
Daniel Oron, UW junior and member of SUPER, identified the BDS movement’s main goals as ending the Israeli occupation, recognizing the rights of Arab-Palestinians (including the right of return), and educating others about the Palestinian struggle.
Oron said SUPER hopes to dedicate the week to making the UW community aware of not only the conflict, but also of its victims.
“In general, a lot of people abstain from becoming involved with this issue because of controversy,” Oron said. “This results in the normalization of an occupation of people and the dehumanization of those people.”
The first planned event is an intersectional panel on racism, oppression, and solidarity Monday at 5 p.m. in Gowen 201. The panel is entitled “Racism, State Repression, and Empire: Palestinian International Solidarity.”
Amani, a member of SUPER UW who preferred to be mentioned by first name, explained there are a lot of parallels between the Palestinian resistance and other anti-racism movements, including Black Lives Matter here in the United States.
“A government using excessive force without penalty and restricting opportunity contributes to the idea that deaths of a certain group of people don’t matter,” Amani said. “When resistance forces don’t stand in solidarity against the oppression, it just doesn’t make sense.”
Brianna Birkel, a member of SUPER and organizer of the panel, agreed that standing in solidarity is a huge part of the movement.
“When one of us is oppressed, we’re all oppressed,” Birkel said.
The panel will feature students from various groups on campus, including the UW chapters of Movimiento Estudiantil Chican@ de Aztlán and the National Society of Black Engineers.
In addition to the panel, a wall will be put up by SUPER in Red Square with information about the ongoing oppression of Palestinians in Israel.
Amani explained that speaking out against oppressors always comes with backlash, and the BDS movement is often labeled as anti-Semitic. SUPER makes it clear on its website that it is an anti-racist organization that condemns all forms of hatred and discrimination, including anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim bigotry.
Many pro-Israel advocates resort to smearing critics instead of defending the country’s policies, Oron said.
“As Israel turns further and further to the right, more and more Americans, including American Jews, are shocked by the growing racism in Israeli society,” Oron said. “I and many people in my Jewish community were shocked by Israel’s attack on Gaza in 2014, when 1,486 people, including 532 children, were killed in indiscriminate attacks on crowded urban areas in one of the most densely populated areas in the world.”
This mislabeling is a deliberate attempt to discredit and undermine a movement that has seen an increasing rate of success, Oron explained. Part of this success can be attributed to the resilience of the Palestinian identity and culture.
Part of IAW is dedicated to recognizing the beauty and intelligence of Palestinian culture that many have tried hard to erase. On Thursday, April 21, SUPER is hosting a Palestine Cultural Festival at 5:30 p.m. in the Social Work Building.
“It is important to recognize that the culture has been flourishing,” Amani said. “Even the wall has art on it; when you dehumanize a people, they will throw culture right back.”
Celebrating Palestinian culture not only shows resilience, but also resistance to its oppressors, Amani explained. The event will include dabke, a traditional Palestinian dance, as well as food, art, poetry, and a guest speaker.
“It’s important to do this kind of education on campus because it gives us a chance to reach out to students who might not be aware of the power they hold,” Birkel said. “Currently, the UW is invested in and directly profits from human rights violations.”
Amani said what the UW is doing with the Race & Equity Initiative and discussions on issues like microaggressions is great, but there needs to be some accountability from the administration and the fact that they have an impact on a much higher level.
“We need to put our money where our mouth is,” Amani said. “We just can’t pretend to be supportive of equality, we need to take action.”
Reach reporter Susana Machado at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @smacha1995