Students for Justice in Palestine protested the construction of a wall built on Palestinian land in the West Bank by creating their own representation of an “apartheid wall” outside of the College and Arts and Sciences on Monday afternoon.
SJP member and second-year CAS Ph.D student Ian Chinich said that a few members of SJP chose to hold up Styrofoam boards painted to look like concrete walls to represent the disputed wall.
“We started at 3 [p.m.], went for three hours, and we got a lot of good reception,” Chinich said in an interview.
More than 500 pamphlets were handed out to disperse information against the wall, he said.
Chinich said that SJP originally had no plan to include the demonstration as part of Israel Apartheid Week until receiving an email on Sunday from the Boston University Students for Israel that requested SJP “refrain from constructing such a structure and from sensationalizing the Arab-Israeli conflict.”
“It is our concern that such a demonstration will only serve to sensationalize and simplify a most complex, nuanced and profoundly serious situation,” BUSI said in the email. “This will only inflame emotions and incite hatred. Ultimately, the mock up will be counterproductive to promoting objective and intellectual analysis of the realities of the region and of the histories of both Arabs and Jews.”
SJP responded by stating that the email along with BUSI complaints to the Student Activity Office led them to stage the demonstration.
“We understand that you are embarrassed about the wall because the wall is an embarrassment,” SJP replied in an email to BUSI. “Rather than sending people to complain to SAO about it, you should be condemning the Israeli government for its extensive confiscation of land, the expanse of checkpoints, the illegal settlements and system of closures involved in imprisoning the Palestinian people.”
While BUSI proposed a “side-by-side” demonstration to promote discussion between the opposing parties, SJP rejected the offer.
“We refuse to take part in whitewashing Israel’s public image, and therefore reject any Israeli-Palestinian meetings that do not recognize Palestinian inalienable rights and do not explicitly aim to resist Israel’s occupation, colonization and apartheid,” SJP said in their response.
CAS junior and BUSI President Rachelle Rubin acknowledged SJP’s right to voice their beliefs but said that Israel cannot be considered an apartheid state.
“It’s the farthest thing from the truth to say that Israel is engaging in systematic killing of Palestinian individuals,” said CAS junior Meggie Wyschogrod, vice president of the BU Hillel House.
Rubin stressed that the BUSI’s Israel Peace Week was designed to demonstrate Israel’s efforts toward peace.
“We really tried to promote a positive sentiment on campus,” Rubin said. “We very much feel for anybody who’s hurt in the conflict. That’s why we were raising money for Save a Child’s Heart,” an Israeli organization that provides cardiac surgery for both Israeli and Arab children.
“All we’re looking for is to engage with them, to have dialogue,” Wyschogrod added. “We try to promote peaceful actions, but we’re also realistic.”
A normalized discussion between the two groups would not come easily, Chinich said.
“The only setting we’re willing to have an event with [BUSI] is a debate,” he said. “We’re not going to tamper down our message just so we can hang out with them.”