Students for Justice in Palestine erect mobile mural, sparking West Bank, Gaza Strip debate
Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) constructed a mural wall in the Arbor on Monday to remain until tomorrow that displays artwork and messages illustrating the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the West Bank and Gaza Strip region.
The wall was originally constructed by SJP at UC Irvine in 2012 and has since been transferred to multiple university campuses, including UC Berkeley, UC Merced, Stanford, Arizona State University and the Claremont Colleges, to promote a UC resolution to divest from companies allegedly profiting from human rights violations in Palestine/Israel. The Associated Students External Affairs Committee will consider this campus’s divestment resolution at its 6 p.m. meeting today after tabling the proposal at its meeting last week.
Second-year music major and SJP member Daniel Moltke said the wall was built in order to spark discussion among the campus community about the ongoing conflict in the West Bank and Gaza as well as to inform interested students on the current divestment resolution.
“We want them to know there is this divestment campaign happening these weeks and that the vote will hopefully be happening Wednesday,” Moltke said. “Our main objective is to spread awareness and let people know that there’s something we can do about it and something we can do about it right now.”
Third-year history major and SJP member Aaron Reveles said the wall travels to different campuses each spring quarter or semester in order to educate UC students statewide about the UC’s financial holdings in corporations such as Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Caterpillar and Hewlett Packard, which all allegedly profit from Israeli government policies in the Palestine/Israel region.
“This is a communal wall that travels to different campuses,” Reveles said. “We drove down to the last school it was at, which was Pitzer College in [Pomona], with a U-Haul truck we rented out. A group of us worked hard and put it together.”
According to Moltke, the UC divestment campaign regarding Palestine/Israel reflects a similar past UC resolution calling on an end to apartheid in South Africa.
“There’s people that were big in the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa, who mentioned specifically the UC’s divesting was a significant part in the turnaround of their movement,” Moltke said. “So we hope that by getting all of the UC’s on the same page, we can get the regents to stop funding these corporations that perpetuate violence and oppression.”
However, first-year economics major Jack Tannenbaum said while he believes the wall facilitates political discussion, its messages do not represent multiple perspectives.
“I’m so happy I’m on a campus like UCSB that facilitates free speech,” Tannenbaum said. “I think that it’s great this wall is up and that it’s starting political discourse. But I really wish … that there had been some form of collaboration, or this wall had shown two sides of the story … I believe it really, really does not.”
Tannenbaum also said the campaigns associated with the wall represent an “affront” to Jewish self-determination.
“On this board it says Zionism equals racism … the general definition of Zionism is the belief in having a nation for the Jewish people free from persecution with the right of self-determination,” Tannenbaum said. “Saying that idea is racism — the existence of a Jewish state is racism — personally affronts my belief in the idea that I can have a place as a Jew where I am free from persecution.”
According to Moltke, despite the presence of the wall, Palestinian students often feel victimized and afraid to voice their opinions at public forums due to potentially consequential future circumstances.
“There are Palestinians who are afraid to speak at these public meetings because someone pro-Israel can record them and send it to the IDF [Israel Defense Forces],” Moltke said.
Moltke said SJP student groups across the UC feel compelled to display the wall and spark discussion among students because of the challenges Palestinians face expressing free speech abroad.
“The Israeli government won’t let you into Palestine if you’re pro-divestment or anti-Israel. There are no airports in Palestine so you have to go through Israel and if students speak out,” Moltke said, “they may never get to see their families in Palestine. So it’s up to us to get the word out.”
First-year biology major Hannah Ellenhorn however said she does not agree with the wall and its illustrations supporting divestment, and believes that the resolution to divest from companies profiting from human rights violations in the Palestine/Israel area is anti-Semitic.
“At the core of the conflict is a refusal for Arab populations to recognize the right of Jewish self-determination in Judea and Samaria,” Ellenhorn said. “The recent move for college campuses to boycott Jewish-owned businesses based in Israel is nothing more than blatant Jew-hatred masked in a degenerate view of social justice.”
According to third-year computer engineering major Nader Khalil, however, United States’ corporations should cut funding to companies profiting from human rights violations everywhere in the world, no matter who the perpetrators or victims are.
“Human rights on all scales are important,” Khalil said. “I see the West Bank Settlements as an issue. There is hate from both sides. A practical solution would be to cut American funding of these Israeli settlements and other war crimes that were committed on Gaza. Have a fair trial for the crimes that happen and move from there.”
A version of this story appeared on page 1 of the Thursday, April 9 print issue of the Daily Nexus.
[Correction: a previous version of this article incorrectly quoted Tannenbaum stating “Zionism equals racism…the belief in having a nation for the Jewish people.” Tannenbaum actually defined Zionism as the belief in a nation for the Jewish people. The quote has been corrected accordingly.]