On Wednesday night, Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) held their second “Palestine 101” teach-in event to discuss the history of Palestine, focusing specifically on its trajectory from the British Mandate for Palestine to the occupied Palestinian territory.
The event was part of SJP’s continued efforts to inform the broader Northwestern community about the origins and current status of the conflict.
McCormick junior Omar Shanti and Weinberg junior Marcel Hanna, members of SJP and the presenters of Palestine 101, began the evening by emphasizing that it was about educating attendees on the Palestinian narrative.
“This is an occupation, this isn’t two equal sides,” Hanna said. “We are presenting the narrative of the Palestinian people, who have been marginalized throughout history.”
Shanti and Hanna explained the status of Palestine, its historic origins and the gradual chipping away of its statehood that culminated with the Israeli occupation that began in 1967. They spoke of the millions of Palestinians displaced by the periods of fighting that have taken place since the occupation began, and of the lack of human rights for Palestinians.
“Neither of these territories have control over imports, exports, power system, registration system,” said Shanti. “These territories controlled by Israel are reduced beyond what can be defined as a state.”The event enticed students who feel strongly about raising awareness on campus. “As a Palestinian I know about the conflict, but I think there’s always more to learn. I think it’s something everybody should know about,” said Weinberg freshman Maryam Salem.
For others, the main draw was the lingering presence of last year’s NU Divest campaign, of which SJP was a co-sponsor. NU Divest was a movement that passed a bill in the Associated Student Government calling on Northwestern’s administration "to divest from corporations that are profiting off the illegal occupation of Palestinian lands," as the NU Divest website expains. The debate leading up to and following the vote brought some, such as McCormick senior Jessie Baloga, to Palestine 101 to learn about the forces involved in the conflict.“I became interested last year because of the NU Divest movement. I felt a little weird about it because it felt like everyone was taking sides but I didn’t know enough,” said Baloga. Some members of SJP, such as Hazim Abdullah, Weinberg senior and co-president of SJP, believe that NU Divest ended up bringing the community together more than it divided.
“I think NU Divest presented a lot of harsh realities and narratives they might not have heard before,” Abdullah said. “I think that sense of divisiveness can be fictitious; we had over 20 organizations co-sign that bill.”
Hazim is confident that sense of community can be extended through education and more outreach events.
“I think people are learning, I think we had a great turn out today and I think people are craving information,” said Abdullah. “Our goal is to continue raising awareness about Palestinians and to create conversations that can lead people to see the importance of supporting human rights all over the world.”