By Susan Schwartz, Muslim Media News Service (MMNS)
The suffering of the Palestinian people under the boot of Israeli occupation has captured the attention of all those who prize justice and compassion.
Bringing to light the situation of the Palestinians has been an uphill battle with a media that is largely driven by Islamophobia and pro-Israeli biases. The situation in Palestine was the focus of an event at the UCLA campus with activities that spanned a week and coincided with the 40th anniversary of the Occupation. The event was titled: Live Free! Palestine Awareness Week.
The oppression of the Palestine people by the Israeli occupying forces which includes, but is not limited to, killings; property destruction; arbitrary imprisonment of adult male Palestinians; harassment at checkpoints; road closures, and limited access to school, jobs, places of worship and medical facilities–were discussed and illustrated.
The event began with education seminars which addressed the issues of the Consequences of Zionism; the Misuses of AntiSemitism; the Nature of Israel as an Apartheid State, and the progress of the University Divestment Program.
â€œI was shocked to hear some of the things that Palestinians are subject toâ€ said one young woman, a UCLA student, who attended the opening session attracted by the display on the commons.
The meeting hall began to fill to near capacity as passersby, intrigued by the outdoor display and the information the staffers provided, chose to spend a pleasant Sunday afternoon learning about Palestine.
In the opening forum, harassment by Israeli police against visitors trying to enter Palestine was forcefully detailed by one of the presenters, Dr. Laila al Marayati presently of KINDERUSA and MPAC and past President of the Muslim Womenâ€™s League. She spoke of her ordeal when she tried to visit Gaza with much needed medical equipment. She was refused entry and tried without success to petition the State Department and the U.S. Embassy in Jordan. She told the audience of a lawsuit she has undertaken with the services of an Israeli attorney against the apartheid government.
When asked to comment on the proposal by King Abdullah of Jordan on a joint Palestinian/Jordanian state, she replied: â€œJordan is Jordan and Palestine is Palestine. Displacement is a racist concept.â€
A representative from Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) at UCLA told of the groupâ€™s project which they have named Live Fire. Their long term goal is university divestment from Israel.
The plight of the smallest victims, the children of Palestine, was addressed during a banquet/fundraiser titled: Branch out to Palestine. Comedians Mason Zayid and Ray Hanania entertained the attendees. In addition there were raffle prizes, cultural performances and Palestinian gift baskets.
Later in the week an exhibit on campus illustrated what life is like for Palestinians who live on the wrong side of the Apartheid Wall. Lectures on media bias and what the media does not tell about the oppression of the Palestinian people were also part of this week-long event.
The problem of refugees â€“ displaced populations–is another underreported tragedy, and it affects Palestinians disproportionately though not exclusively.
At a campus park area people learned about refugee populations and the causes of their plight.
â€œI have learned so much about Palestineâ€ said one young student.
The week-long event both educational and entertaining was a fitting commemoration for the 40th anniversary of the Occupation.
The Campaign to End Israeli Apartheid Southern California Chapter (CEIA-SC) is a diverse group which seeks to achieve peace with justice in the Middle East. CEIA has joined with a Palestinian initiated campaign of boycott, divest and sanction (BDS) against the apartheid state of Israel similar to the successful campaign launched in the latter part of the last century against South Africa. Their actions are aimed at bringing about the end of Israelâ€™s immoral and cruel policies toward Palestinians both within Israel and in the Occupied Territories.
CEIA sponsored the opening event with SJP as co sponsor. The remaining events were sponsored by SJP and the Muslim Student Association (MSA) with CEIA as one of the co sponsors.
CEIA may be accessed at its web site: (http://www.ceia-sc.org/).
Students for Justice in Palestine is little more than a year old. It began on the campus of UC Berkeley and has since spread to 25 colleges and universities. It is a grass roots effort which seeks to educate the campus as to the nature of Israel as an apartheid state – the new South Africa. SJP also seeks to achieve boycott, divestment and sanctions until Israel complies with international standards of law.
The group may be access on the web at: firstname.lastname@example.org_ (mailto:email@example.com) .
The event received diverse support. The co-sponsors included among others: The Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR); the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California; American Friends Service Committee (AFSC); Palestine Aid Society (PAS) and the Committee in Support of the People of El Salvador (CISPES).