Palestinians educate through activism

Joseph Langan

What is it like to live under apartheid?

Imagine rifling through papers at military checkpoints between where you live and where you work. Imagine tall fences with barbed wire severing your home from precious aquifers. Imagine families huddling in the crumbling structure they call home, doing homework under candlelight because they only have electricity for four hours a day. We’ve seen apartheid perhaps most famously in South Africa, but there are other states where these brutal conditions are an everyday reality.

If being an apartheid state means systematic oppression, committing inhumane acts and racial domination over one group, the United Nations has ruled that Israel is guilty. There are more Palestinian refugees than any other group, and one in three refugees across the world is Palestinian.

Who are the Palestinian refugees? They are the indigenous people of Palestine, the majority of whom were dispossessed and exiled from their homeland when the state of Israel was established in 1948. Violent massacres and a systematic policy of ethnic elimination, which continues to this day, have caused many Palestinians to flee from their homes and take refuge in the neighboring countries of Jordan, Syria and Lebanon, among many others.

For the past 70 years, Israel has denied more than seven million Palestinian refugees their natural and historic right to return to their ancestral villages. Today, over 300,000 Palestinians within Israel live under a form of martial law. 

This week, Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) is working to educate the Kent State community on the living conditions of these Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza.

From Monday through Friday, SJP will display a mock apartheid wall in Risman Plaza to show students a glimpse into life under occupation and what it means to be denied basic freedoms, such as freedom of movement. Hoping to spark questions, insightful conversation and a platform for future dialog, the mock apartheid wall displays infographics for students to read as they exercise their freedom to walk to class.

This educational display in Kent is just one small part of a global conversation facilitated by a network of grassroots activists, organizations and SJP chapters throughout the world. As one small part of Israeli Apartheid Week, the battleground for disseminating information free of propaganda is being waged on college campuses. Kent State’s SJP chapter hopes to bring awareness to the growing injustices Palestinians face in their daily lives through events such as lectures, workshops and film screenings.

Most importantly is Palestinian Culture Night, this Thursday. From 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. in the Student Center Ballroom, students will host a celebration of Palestinian culture through food, music, traditional dance and fashion. Hosting a culture night every year is vital to SJP. As Chance Zurub, SJP’s president, explained, “When you have a state that is committing ethnic cleansing, it is essential to hold onto culture and the dream of returning home.” 

For Palestinians worldwide, this dream takes the form of peacefully returning to their cultural homeland, establishing equality and mutually sharing human rights between Arabs and the Jewish population of Israel.

Joseph Langan is a columnist. Contact him at [email protected].