Eight-foot tall walls, reading “free Palestine” and “peace, not apartheid” tower over passers-by on Stokes Lawn. The walls were put up by Boston College Students for Justice in Palestine (BC SJP), a group attempting to raise awareness of the Palestine-Israel conflict through “Peace, Not Apartheid Week.”
The week, which is held at universities worldwide, encourages students to think beyond biased media about the conflict, which often carries a negative stigma, Kaitlin Astrella, treasurer of BC SJP and MCAS ’16, said. The conflict has been ongoing for over five decades and revolves around issues including mutual recognition, border control, water security, and control of Jerusalem.
The group is holding events from April 4 through 8 to educate students, and encourages them to do their own research on the conflict.
“We are really just trying to start a dialogue on campus,” Katie Mears, BC SJP board member and LSOE ’16, said. “The conflict goes in and out of the news and we find that students don’t really know much about it.”
On Monday, BC SJP held a student panel on Palestine, which featured BC students who have travelled to the country and worked on peace initiatives within the region. The group also provided traditional Palestinian dishes for students in attendance.
“We are really just trying to start a dialogue on campus. The conflict goes in and out of the news and we find that students don’t really know much about it.”
—Katie Mears, BC SJP board member and LSOE ’16
BC SJP then held a screening of a movie titled The Wanted 18 on Wednesday night in Devlin 227. The documentary, which features stop-motion animation, tells the story of Palestinians’ efforts in Beit Sahour to kickstart the dairy industry. The movie tells about how the dairy collective was deemed as a threat to Israel’s national security.
“It’s a funny story,” Astrella said. “It takes these conflicts in a different direction than most documentaries. It’s kind of new and fresh so it’s cool to be able to show it.”
The group will hold its final event tonight in Campion 010. The event will feature Nathalie Handal, a creative writing professor at Columbia University who will speak about being Palestinian, working as a poet, and enduring love.
SJP began holding Palestine Awareness Week in 2012 when the president of the club wrote his thesis about the Palestine-Israel conflict. The club was unable to hold the awareness week last year, however, because of a lack of funding.
The group has been organizing the event since the beginning of the academic year, trying to recruit speakers and publicize its efforts. The group also went through the Office of Student Involvement to gain approval to build the walls on Stokes Lawn.
Schools including Columbia, University of California, Berkeley, and Edinburgh University are holding awareness weeks similar to BC SJP’s.
“If you go to a big school like Boston College, it is helpful to speak about these issues because you have a certain credibility,” Astrella said. “Educating people about things like this at a well-known university gives the fight to end the conflict some credence.”
BC SJP will hold one more event before the school year is over on April 21. Remi Kanazi, a spoken word poet and Palestinian-American, will visit BC to perform at BC SJP’s event.
“I think part of being men and women for others is being aware of how your actions have an effect on others,” Mears said.
Featured Image by Julia Hopkins / Heights Editor