Georgetown University’s chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine hosted its annual Israel Apartheid Week from April 2 to 6 to draw attention to the 70 years of Palestinian popular resistance against the continued “process of dispossession” and conflict in the Israel-Palestine region since the 1948 Israeli War of Independence.
In its 14th year, Israel Apartheid Week is an international movement on college campuses that aims to provide a platform for events in cities to raise awareness of “Israel’s apartheid system over the Palestinian people and to build support for the growing Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement,” according to the IAW website. The Palestinian-led BDS movement calls for international companies and governments to withdraw support for, divest from and sanction Israeli companies “that are involved in the violation of Palestinian human rights,” according to the BDS movement website.
Andrew Kadi, a BDS movement leader, was invited to explain the BDS movement to students April 3. BDS encourages the international community to stop “a regime of settler colonialism, apartheid and occupation” by exerting financial pressure on Israel, according to the BDS website.
Part of a nationwide federation of Palestinian advocacy groups, Georgetown’s SJP organized events to support the ongoing dialogue about self-determination of Palestinian people.
Other events SJP hosted throughout the week included a film screening of “The Wanted 18,” an animated documentary about the efforts of Palestinians to start a small local dairy industry, and a talk by Georgetown department of anthropology professor Laurie King, who discussed the importance of Palestinian media and journalism. King co-founded a Palestine-focused, online news source called the Electronic Intifada in 2001. SJP also tabled and wrote letters to Palestinian political prisoners in Red Square.
SJP President Ahmad Al-Husseini (NHS ’20) said Israel Apartheid Week, which has taken place on Georgetown’s campus since 2011, is SJP’s number one priority for the year.
“Our goal in doing this week is simply just raising awareness and reminding the world that this struggle still exists and is not going away until immediate and severe action is taken to hold Israel accountable,” Al-Husseini wrote in an email to The Hoya.
This year’s SJP’s Israeli Apartheid Week did not occur without incident. A Palestinian flag, hung in Red Square on April 1, was taken down April 3 and April 6 by unknown individuals. This resulted in SJP filing two bias incident reports with the university administration.
Georgetown Israel Alliance (GIA) also reported five separate incidents concerning its Israeli flag, which also hung in Red Square. Its flag was removed April 3, 4 and 6, and GIA filed bias reports with the administration. Georgetown University Police Department apprehended the April 6 perpetrator.
SJP Treasurer Olivia Vita (COL ’19) said recent conflicts on the border between Gaza Strip and Israel have added significance to on-campus events.
“This year we didn’t have a particular theme, but the current happenings in Gaza have added another layer of heartfelt sensitivity,” Vita wrote in an email to The Hoya.
Tens of thousands of Palestinians protested along the Gaza Strip on March 30 against Israel’s Gaza Blockade — a land, air, and sea blockade on the Gaza Strip by Israel and Egypt from 2007 to present — according to The New York Times.
The protests, which involved around 30,000 people, aimed to stage a peaceful sit-in for six weeks before protesters were met with Israeli military force. Gazan health ministry officials said 29 Palestinians have been killed in an escalation of violence between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian protestors, with thousands more wounded, including 293 by live fire. The UN Human Rights office said it has indications that Israeli forces used “excessive force” during last week’s crackdown, according to The Independent.
GIA, a club dedicated to Israel’s right to exist as a state, disputes SJP’s definition of the nature of Israel Apartheid Week. Despite individual friendships between some members of GIA and SJP, tensions rise between the two groups every year during Israel Apartheid Week, according to GIA Cultural Chair Andrew Boas (SFS ’20).
“Around Israel Apartheid Week, it obviously gets very tense,” Boas wrote in an email to The Hoya. “I think for better or for worse, SJP has not been particularly active this year. They come out sort of during Israel Apartheid Week. But as far as it relates to Israel or Palestine, there’s very little cooperation between the groups.”
A main source of tension between the groups has arisen over the meaning of “apartheid” in the week’s title.
Al-Husseini said the use of “apartheid” in the campaign is meant to represent SJP’s view of the relationship between the Israeli government and Palestinians.
“We use the word apartheid in this week’s title because we truly do believe that the current policies carried out by Israeli government represent a system that treat Palestinians like second-class citizens in all aspects of life,” Al-Husseini wrote.
GIA President Tanner Larkin (SFS ’20), who is also a current member of The Hoya’s editorial board, pushed back on the label apartheid as a false characterization of Israel’s political climate.
“If ‘apartheid’ is meant literally, apartheid has a legal definition whose criteria are not met by the situation in Israel. If it is meant metaphorically, then Israel is nothing like apartheid South Africa,” Larkin wrote in an email to The Hoya. “Arab Israelis, unlike non-white South Africans, enjoy the same privileges and rights as Jewish Israelis and are integral members of Israel’s political, economic, and cultural life. They live and work alongside non-Arab Israelis, sit in the Israeli parliament, and serve bravely in the Israel Defense Forces at ever-higher rates.”
GIA plans to host Georgetown’s first-ever Israel Peace Week from April 13 to 19, though its week’s purpose is not to rebut Israel Apartheid Week, Larkin said.
“I hope that Israel Peace Week will be a chance for Georgetown students to do their part to move us closer to the vision that many of individuals in both GIA and SJP share, of two states, one Jewish and one Arab, living side-by-side in peace, cooperation, and mutual respect,” Larkin wrote.
Next week, SJP plans to set up a mock apartheid wall in the Intercultural Center Galleria to showcase ongoing instances of “human rights violations conducted by Israel,” Al-Husseini said. Two years ago, the wall was vandalized with anti-Palestinian messages.
A final Israel Apartheid Week event, a charity dinner to benefit a humanitarian aid organization Helping Hand, has not yet been scheduled. SJP may postpone the dinner until next semester because of logistical and scheduling issues, according to Al-Husseini.