Letter to the editor: SJP explained

by Osama Alkhawaja

Editor’s note: This letter to the editor is addressing numerous columns by The Daily Aztec regarding the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. 

My father was born in Jerusalem in 1967, a few months before the war broke out. I joke sometimes and tell him it was his fault. My grandparents fled to the bordering country of Jordan and a couple decades later, my parents met in Saudi Arabia and moved to San Diego.

That’s what I am, a product of refugees. I come from a war torn piece of land now known as the West Bank, I live in one of nine countries in the world that refuses to recognize my homeland as a state, and I attend a university that has rejected a call to pull their investments out of companies that profit off the occupation and human rights abuses of my people. All that being said, I couldn’t be more proud of where I come from, where I live, and where I choose to study, while still being self critical of all three.

It is with this background I accepted my position as co-chair of Students for Justice in Palestine, and I wanted to share with my fellow students what that means to me amidst the context of what Palestinians have had to endure both in Palestine and the diaspora. My people’s history is one in which tomorrow has always been worse than today. The slow passage of time has yet to offer the Palestinians a better future. So then why do I have the audacity to claim that we can significantly affect the most protracted “conflict” of our time? It is because I still have hope, and that hope lies in Students for Justice in Palestine and the power of students seeking to challenge the status quo.

Students have always been at the forefront of change, playing a key role in the civil rights, women’s suffrage and anti-apartheid movements. We have faced challenges and resistance before and now the fight for Palestinian rights is no different. This is the nature of a struggle, and I won’t despair because I have a theory about why we continue to see resistance.

People are inherently good and their opposition stems not from hate, but from their fear of the unknown. They envision a zero-sum game where giving Palestinians the honor and dignity they deserve somehow takes away from their own, so they resist. This Resistance is in the form of disparaging labels given to SJP in order to discredit our cause.

On this very campus we have been called terrorists, violent, and divisive. We have been labeled anti-Semitic despite the fact that Palestinians are also Semites and that many Jews have stood by us in our struggle for justice. SJP has never attacked a religion or ethnic group throughout our history here at SDSU but this seems not to matter to people who are too scared to challenge the status quo.

What is the status quo? It is $8 million United States tax dollars a day going toward arming and supporting Israeli military aggression. It is the massacre of Palestinians as the world stands idly by. It is our University investing in companies that reap obscene profits off these murders. It is more than 2000 Palestinians killed last summer in Gaza, the world’s largest open-air prison. It is more than 500 children slaughtered by militants flying jets paid for by your tax dollars and mine. It is 1500 new orphans and 10,000 civilians wounded while we all enjoyed our summer break.

“But there are two sides,” is the common apathetic response I hear across campus.

I reply by affirming that there are two sides, and they constitute an occupier and an occupied, an oppressor and an oppressed, those who establish a system of domination and those who are forced to live under it. Claiming that both are at fault is essentially stating that history and context do not exist. Stop me if you are having a small identity crisis at this point, but the truth can be unsettling at times.

Yet I still have hope; I believe that if people simply knew what was being done in their name and with their currency, they would not stand for it. So the next time you mistake our passion for anger and our zeal for irrationality, focus on the meaning behind our words, the fundamental message of human rights for all. We can change the world by changing ourselves and if you think that’s a little crazy, consider this quote by Steve Jobs, “Those who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.”

So lets get a little crazy at San Diego State, I know I am.