Israeli Apartheid Week demonstrations draw mixed reactions at SF State
Two walls stood as a blockade to the entrance of Malcolm X Plaza. Students were asked to show their SF State identification before passing through to the Cesar Chavez Student Center to convey the eerie feeling of a borderland territory.
Israeli Apartheid Week is an annual international series of events in cities and campuses with the intent of educating people about the segregation system in Israel and to build Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaigns as part of a growing global BDS movement.
“These walls are a mock wall of the apartheid wall and the border between the United States and Mexico. We partnered up with La Raza, we came together to build a wall that represents both of the borders that divide our peoples,” Zachariah Barghouti, co-president of GUPS, said.
Barghouti, a 27-year-old international relations major, believes the similarities between the walls built along the United States, Mexico border and the walls built in Israel are alike in that they stand for the same reasons.
“We share a legacy of support for one another and share a struggle against a united enemy and that is racial inequality, injustice and oppression,” Barghouti said. “Thats what brings us together; it’s the fight for social justice.”
GUPS and La Raza have had a long standing relationship as history has shown.
“(GUPS) have always supported us in our cultural events and whenever they needed our support, if we felt like it was something we agree with, then we do everything in our power to offer our support,” Tomás Ortega, La Raza organizer, said.
Ortega believes that the two cultures are fighting the same battle.
“We felt as apart of our two cultures, Palestinians and La Raza people, for the most part our entire culture is one of resistance, especially Latinos,” the international relations major said. “It has always been a resistance to keep our culture, and once people come in and start putting up a wall of western European ideas, it just creates a hegemony and that’s actually what we’ve been fighting against.”
Representatives from the I-Team, formerly known as the Israeli Coalition, believed the demonstration was a bit abrasive.
“I know I’m pro-peace and pro-human rights” Ally Poret, active member of I-Team, said. “I think what they are doing is a scary way to prove a point, to be yelling into microphones and asking to see your papers, but I do understand that they have a point to prove and they want to show it.”
Former president of the Israeli Coalition, Samuel Boikaner, felt the demonstration was too much.
“It’s pretty sad, in my opinion this is very offensive towards my side,” Boikaner said.
Although many representatives from I-Team did stress they were not there to show sides, but to keep students informed.
“We are trying to enhance it’s diverse background, and promote diversity in Israel. Anybody who has any open opinions we definitely have an open forum for that,” Emerson Gomez, 26, said. “We are here today to not necessarily to say our side of the story. We are trying to promote dialogue, trying to promote discourse; and also showing every single side of the story and basically give information so people can be aware.”
Ortega believes the approach was just right.
“Of course it’s abrasive,” Ortega said. “I mean it’s a sensitive issue. The message we want to send is that there is a particular border issue, and unless you live on the border you can’t really understand what those dynamics are like. We want to educate the student population here who might not have that experience.”
Students passing by didn’t seem too bothered. Tony Flores, senior and history major, thought the demonstration was educational.
“I mean I think it’s cool, it gets people to see what everyone crossing the border has to go through,” Flores said. “I think some students might be offended and be like, ‘What the hell are you guys doing?’ But I mean, what else can you do about it? That’s life.”
March 7 will mark the last scheduled event led by the student organizations. “Photoshoot For Justice” will take place at Malcom X Plaza at 10 a.m.