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Respect must be central to clubs’ conflict

Antonio+Zaragoza%2C+Photo+Editor
Antonio Zaragoza, Photo Editor

Antonio Zaragoza, Photo Editor

Antonio Zaragoza, Photo Editor

by Randy Wilde

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Antonio Zaragoza, Photo Editor

Antonio Zaragoza, Photo Editor

This week, San Diego State’s Campanile Walkway has been the site of both productive student activism and an unproductive and tense rivalry. SDSU’s Students for Justice in Palestine set up a mock apartheid wall in anticipation of Palestine Awareness Week, today through Tuesday. The purpose of the wall is to spread awareness of the human rights issues caused by Israel’s security fence surrounding Palestinian territory. Another student organization, Aztecs for Israel, has set up its own table and informational display within spitting distance. Social science senior and AFI Vice President of Logistics Jaclyn Singer said the group is not seeking to antagonize SJP, only to make its own voice heard and present the opposing viewpoint of the issue.

“Our main message is peace,” Singer said.

Despite the universal claims of innocence, the mood in the area has sometimes been negative and aggressive. Both groups can do more to prove their avowed desire for productive discussion and positive change.

SJP activists are careful to explain they are protesting the actions of Israel’s government, rather than expanding the issue to religion, race or nationality. One panel of the wall clearly states, “Zionism does not equal Judaism,” while other sections display quotes from prominent Jews denouncing human rights abuse against Palestinians. Yet members still claim to have been targeted with aggressive backlash. This is not the first Palestine Awareness Week SJP has put on, and members said this year has been tame compared to previous events.

Although the two groups may have radically different views about the nature of the Israeli / Palestinian conflict, they appear to have the same goal: a peaceful resolution. They also have the same explanation for why tension has been constant throughout the week – a lack of understanding. So why can’t the positive collegiate atmosphere of SDSU foster a more productive dialogue that does not attack or antagonize anyone? After all, university campuses are meant to be a colorful array of ideas and perspectives where all can safely express themselves.

Admittedly it’s revoltingly cliché, but a little communication could go a long way in solving this problem. It is completely reasonable for SJP to desire a safe and open forum to hold its event free from competition, tension or harassment. Nor is it outrageous for AFI to present another perspective and exercise free speech. However, setting up in such close proximity in direct opposition to another organization’s event without any prior communication or cooperation is not entirely constructive. When AFI moved its display to Campanile Walkway yesterday in order to clear space for the Education Abroad Fair, the environment at both locations was much more comfortable.

I would urge AFI to coordinate with SJP prior to events to avoid being perceived as ambushers. We should all be adults capable of conducting ourselves respectfully: It would be downright embarrassing if SDSU’s Student Life & Leadership had to become involved, playing mommy to prevent bickering and disruption.

Another issue has been the behavior of nonstudents coming to campus to harass student activists during events. In the past, these aggressive characters have intruded students’ personal space with cameras, taking video or making threatening comments such as calling students “anti-Semites” or “terrorists.” I don’t know how much of a relationship, if any, exists between these outsiders and any student organization, but all students should make an effort to prevent inappropriate behavior on campus. Especially if you endorse a similar perspective, it only makes you look bad when your allies conduct themselves in such an unacceptable fashion.

Both SJP and AFI appear interested in creating a healthier, more constructive relationship in the future. Aside from simple communication, perhaps the best way to achieve that ideal would be to conduct more partnered events, such as discussion forums and panels. As far as the rest of Palestine Awareness Week goes, I would hope this campus has the ability to continue a positive trend in building awareness and relationships with a tone of tolerance and respect.

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4 Comments

4 Responses to “Respect must be central to clubs’ conflict”

  1. Wade on March 15th, 2012 2:27 pm

    The problem with the Wall, and the subsequent bridge, was the presence of non-student activists. At one point, I noticed all dialogue at the wall between people of opposing views was between SJP members and pro-Israeli adults. What should be a student-run event was turned into a circus by people from Stand With Us, a pro-Israel organization that had several representatives at the wall to argue. Events like SJP’s Wall and Aztecs or Israel’s Bridge should be places where SDSU students can discuss opinions and hopefully reach a better understanding. Yes, it’s going to get heated, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be civil. It’s a mystery to me what AFI hopes to accomplish by bringing in mercenaries to argue with SJP members and even go as far as take their pictures. If their goal is be good ambassadors for Israel, they are utterly failing.

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  2. Arafat on March 16th, 2012 4:57 pm

    o Palestinians are a miserable and pathetic people. They slit the throats of innocent Israeli families, then whine when Israel sets up check points to prevent this. They blow themselves up on crowded Israeli buses, then whimper when Israel prevents this with a wall. The shoot rockets at Israel by the thousands, then kvetch and moan when Israel deploys Iron Dome defenses to prevent this, too.
    They forced the construction of the wall. They necessitated the checkpoints. All of their misery is their own doing. But they will never acknowledge that truth; because that would mean self-reflection and intelligence (decency and kindness) on their part– all characteristics they and their leadership know nothing about.

    [Reply]

  3. Arafat on March 19th, 2012 12:43 pm

    Wade, this one is for you:

    • If you want to see a BDS supporter squirm, ask them why Israel existing as a Jewish state is unacceptable and racist but Palestine existing as an Arab and Muslim state is a noble cause worth supporting.

    My proof of this is examples of the Palestinian National Charter:

    “Article 1. Palestine is the homeland of the Arab Palestinian people; it is an indivisible part of the greater Arab homeland, and the Palestinian people are an integral part of the Arab nation.”

    And from the basic law of Palestine:

    “Islam is the official religion in Palestine.”

    So why isn’t there a movement to boycott the Palestinians, seeing as how they make it clear they intend to make a theocratic, ethnic-based state?

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  4. Bill C. on March 20th, 2012 11:34 am

    I enjoyed the symbol of the bridge supplied in the otherwise arrogant and disrespectful display put on with this event. It showed a clear distinction between peace and hate. Similar to the problems in Israel, where 47 rockets were made it past the Iron Dome defense system last Tuesday, it was clear what side of the wall has peaceful intentions on campus.

    I do not support the wall in general, but what is a better alternative? Comparing the year before and after it was built, terrorist attacks were reduced by 90 percent after – hundreds of fewer deaths on BOTH sides. Conversely, putting a wall on campus is even more disrespectful. Those who cannot realize this should think about what an over-the-top, yet equal, response to putting the wall up would be – maybe a mock explosion to symbolize the still-regular terrorist attacks occurring in Israel? That sounds about equal to me (but notice what group has the respect to hold back).

    [Reply]

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