On Monday, March 20th, Bi-Co Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) launched Israeli Apartheid Week, with the goal of spreading a message of solidarity with Palestine in its longstanding conflict with Israel.
The club invited two speakers, Professor Sa’ed Atshan of Swarthmore College, and Remi Kanazi, a Brooklyn-based poet and activist, to present during the week. A third event, a screening of the film Omar, which was to be held in Thomas Hall at Bryn Mawr on Monday, was ultimately cancelled.
Rosemary Cohen ’18 was a main organizer of the week’s events. A student at Haverford, Cohen stressed the importance of “recognizing Apartheid in Israel and American financial complicity in that Apartheid.”
“We wanted to give people a chance to place themselves in the conflict while also using the week as a message of solidarity for the Palestinian Rights movement,” said Cohen. “People see this as very distant to their lives.”
Atshan teaches in the Peace and Conflict Studies Department at Swarthmore College. His talk, titled “Human Rights in Occupied Palestine: Reflections from a Queer Palestinian Quaker”, took place on Tuesday, March 21st in Chase Auditorium. Atshan, as a Quaker, largely tackled the issues of human rights in Palestine under Israeli control.
Kanazi’s talk was titled “Poetic Injustice: From Brooklyn to Palestine”, and was held on Wednesday, March 22, in the DC Basement Main Lounge. Kanazi’s work involves touring college campuses and universities, where he performs spoken word poetry and urges student activism on campus. His poems spoke directly to Cohen’s sentiments, ranging from overcoming apathy of Americans to injustice to bombing raids in Palestine. Each event drew a small crowd of 15 to 20 people.
“People that come to events are people who are progressive and radical on these issues, who support this work, and there’s often a presence of people who don’t support this work, but come out to these events anyways,” said Cohen. This issue makes it difficult for this movement to grow beyond the club and into the greater student body. Cohen said that if students are galvanized on a major divestment campaign, she didn’t believe it would be this issue.
Cohen expressed concern over Haverford’s small size as a major hurdle to overcome in the club’s goals. The intimacy of the campus often prevents students from supporting an issue, as Cohen said, “if it means disagreeing with their friends.”
“In our movement, there isn’t really room for dialogue,” said Cohen. “A common complaint is that SJP doesn’t want to have a dialogue, doesn’t want to talk about it. To that I say there’s too much at stake. You can’t walk into a room and separate yourself from this issue and talk as if this doesn’t matter. We can’t put ourselves and peaceful dialogue before a struggle.”
The next major project for SJP will be a Boycott-Divest-Sanction (BDS) campaign against Israel. This movement is currently underway at Bryn Mawr. Cohen stated that financial boycott is working in Israel. Kanazi’s talk also touched on this issue; he informed his audience that colleges often invest in companies that support Israel, and he stated that students have a right to know where their tuition dollars go. and the goal of the club will be to inform the student body of Haverford’s investments in these companies. This undertaking will also include an attempt to remove Sabra Hummus from the Coop and Uncommon Grounds. Sabra Hummus is headquartered in New York and owned by Strauss Group, an Israeli food manufacturer.
**An earlier edition of this article referred to Sabra Hummus as an Israeli company. Sabra Hummus is headquartered in New York and owned by Strauss Group, an Israeli food manufacturer**