Club Offers Crash Course on the Palestine Issue
Approximately 13 percent of Gaza’s population suffers from acute malnutrition and 65 percent is under the poverty line. Another 48 percent of the West Bank’s population suffers from a similar economic fate, according to an Amnesty International report.
A video clip from Andrew Courtney’s The Israeli Wall in Palestinian Lands claims that 65,000 people will be cut off from Jerusalem due to “security measures” that will close the Jerusalem-Jericho road, separating Palestinians from one another as well as the intertwined Israeli and Palestinian economies.
These and other topics were presented and discussed during the “Palestine 101” event in Wilder 101 on Wednesday, Nov. 28.
During this meeting, Students for a Free Palestine gave two power-point presentations, showed a short documentary clip and led a question-and-answer session. In addition, the group offered informational handouts with titles such as “Freezing the Peace Process,” “Guillotining Gaza,” and “Testimonies: Sick infant dies after being delayed by soldiers at checkpoint while on way to hospital.”
SFP’s mission statement expresses a desire “to raise awareness of the oppression and vast suffering of the Palestinian people… [and] strive to create more complex dialogue on Oberlin campus as well as in our greater communities,” SFP discussed historical topics, such as the first intifada, described by the group as a primarily non-violent rebellion from 1987 to 1993, to more current issues like the 409 km wall erected in 2002 that separates the West Bank and Israel.
First-year and attendee Joe Brophy said, “It was a well-made presentation from what I saw.”
SFP, which was re-chartered in 2002, has a predominantly underclassmen membership. Sophomore Dalia Fakhouri, an SFP officer uncertain of her official title, said, “I knew the leaders of SFP [who] were graduating before I came to Oberlin, and they solicited me into joining. It’s pretty much a new group. Most of the old leaders have graduated.”
Others were drawn to the group for different reasons. SFP president Adrieh Abu Shchada, a junior, said, “I’m Palestinian. As a freshman I was interested in the organization, and I have been involved ever since.”
Brophy heard of the event through flyers. He said, “I’m very interested in the topic. Last year, I went abroad for nine months in Israel.”
Each member of SFP has a definite motivation for educating the campus about the situation in Palestine.
Fakhouri said, “This is important, especially in Oberlin, with the stigma of leftists and liberals, and so many people who are anti-war and involved in other human rights organizations, because there is a huge lack of knowledge on Palestine. To me, it seems so obvious that people should know about it. As Americans, it’s so important, with millions of dollars each day being given to Israel.”
Abu Shchada said, “I think it’s important for college students to be aware of humanitarian issues, especially in Oberlin. It is a historically activist campus, but for some reason people are either numb or resistant to this topic.”
As for the current “taboo” air surrounding the issue, she said, “This is probably because it’s a sensitive topic; it’s a really dividing topic and we want people to be more open to discussion. People avoid it. This is probably because a lot of people are emotionally attached to the topic because of their Jewish heritage and whatnot.”
According to Abu Shchada, SFP’s goal is “to get the campus more open to talking and listening.”
“Right now, there are eight to ten active members,” said Abu Shchada.
The SFP hopes to increase membership and spread education throughout the campus. The group has changed its program in order to capture more attention.
“In previous years, students have been resistant to our tactics. We’ve become more educational [since then]. We’ve put divestment on the back burner because people aren’t really ready to talk about that,” she said.
In the past, the organization has garnered educational attention via events such as covering a tent with the names of all the villages destroyed in 1948 and bringing a slam poet to the Cat in the Cream.
The SFP’s goals include bringing in a “bigger speaker” and educating the public on cultural and factual information on a broader scale. The group also plans to start an educational reading group.
On Wednesday, Dec. 5, SFP will be screening Arna’s Children at 7:30 p.m. at Craig Lecture Hall.