During the week of March 25 through March 28, Students for Justice in Palestine, OSU Coalition for BDS, and the Palestinian Women’s Association collaborated to host Israeli Apartheid Week. We were disappointed to see a letter, “Israeli Apartheid Week drives divisiveness on campus,” published in The Lantern and want to set the record straight.
On Tuesday, March 26, we displayed a mock Israeli Apartheid Wall with graphics showing the history of the Israeli occupation of Palestine, as well as information about the construction and effects of the wall. On that day, members of our student organizations engaged in positive and constructive discussions about Israeli Apartheid, with people of all opinions and interests.
Among the things we discussed is that the “separation barrier” is not in Israel, as Sarah Disselkamp claims in her letter (nor is it a border fence as many other apartheid apologists suggest). Rather, 85 percent of it runs through illegally occupied land in the West Bank on a 712 kilometer-long route, far more than just Jerusalem. For this reason, it was deemed illegal by the International Court of Justice. The wall separates Palestinian villages, subject to Israeli military law, from Israeli settlements, governed by Israeli civilian law. Hence the name apartheid: two legal systems for two ethnic groups.
Our demonstration was meant to elevate the voices of Palestinian and pro-Palestine students and have conversations that represent our perspective on the ongoing occupation and oppression of Palestinians, and create visibility for the issue on campus. Our position on the occupation of Palestinians is in direct conflict with pro-Israel voices, and therefore it is unnecessary to include them to question and delegitimize our struggle. Pro-Israel groups understand this and have never invited pro-Palestine groups into a discussion about Israel, so it is saddening to see the double standards being applied to largely Muslim students. Furthermore, it demonizes Palestinian students to claim that we had knowledge in advance that pro-Israel students would all be missing school to attend an unadvertised trip to AIPAC and conspired to select a time and day where pro-Israel students would not be on campus, which is simply untrue.
While we have not planned events on Passover or Purim, and events occuring at the same time as holidays are not ideal, it’s important to note that the subjugation of Palestinians does not simply pause for the holidays. For example, while Palestinian Christians were preparing to visit their holy sites on Easter, they were barred from entry simply for being the wrong religion and ethnicity and because Israeli Jews were celebrating Passover. We also find it deeply disingenuous to conflate hosting a week of events during AIPAC—which we didn’t even know Ohio State students were attending—with hosting events during Jewish holidays. AIPAC is a pro-Israel lobbying group, not a Jewish cultural or religious institution.
Rather than confronting any of the numerous things we actually posted about (with sources to back us up), Disselkamp writes, “Israeli Apartheid Week also refers to the supposed genocide of the Palestinian people in Israel, ignoring the fact that the Palestinian population grows by about 2.4 percent per year.” While the blockade on Gaza that the UN predicts will make the region uninhabitable by next year certainly meets the international legal definition of a genocidal act (namely, “the deliberate deprivation of resources needed for the group’s physical survival and which are available to the rest of the population, such as clean water, food and medical services”), we did not make claims of genocide, and definitely not in Israel. Our week was about apartheid based on its international legal definition. Some advice: if you’re going to try refuting us, you need to actually read what we say rather than regurgitating the talking points you learned while you were away at AIPAC.
We are happy to take part in future discussions about Palestine/Israel on campus. To that end, we would like to take this opportunity to publicly invite pro-Israel groups to a debate next semester. We can be contacted at the emails below. Students who are interested in organizing with us for justice in Palestine are also welcome to contact us.
Students for Justice in Palestine
OSU Coalition for BDS
Palestinian Women’s Association