The General Union of Palestine Students paid tribute to victims of the 1982 Sabra and the Shatila massacre, an act they hold Israel responsible for, as Israeli student groups stood steps away on campus Tuesday.
“We’re here to commemorate the loss of life,” said GUPS President Lubna Morrar of the spoken word, dancing and hip-hop performances at the event. “Today we honor those lost in the struggle in the path toward liberation and freedom.”
GUPS hosted their commemoration on the main stage while other groups stationed themselves around Malcolm X Plaza. The events of September 1982, in which Lebanese Christian militants killed hundreds of people in the Palestinian neighborhood of Sabra and the Shatila refugee camp, brought conflicting sides to the affair.
Israeli groups Hillel and I-Team tabled nearby to establish their presence to GUPS and bystanders, according to Jacob Mandel, a member of both groups.
“We’re showing that we won’t sit idly by while GUPS displays our name in a way that we don’t like,” Mandel said. “We are not murderous people. In fact, we are very peaceful.”
As GUPS performances unfolded, Hillel and I-Team members walked through the crowd of onlookers and passed out packets detailing their perspective on the massacre.
Israel and its supporters deny any involvement with the Lebanese Christian Phalangist militia that launched the offense on the refugee camp and neighborhood of Palestinians and Lebanese Shiites.
“Israel continues to create massive amounts of turmoil within Palestinians living in their indigenous homelands,” Morrar said. “Our tax dollars go to fund these massacres.”
GUPS acknowledged the presence of the Israeli student organizations through finger-pointing and name calling, according to Hartenstein.
“We’re just representing our side, we’re not here to rain on their parade or chant over them,” said I-Team President Ori Hartenstein. “I think it’s healthy to have this going on here because it’s a safe place where we can have this dialogue.”
Although the Israeli organizations stood near, Morrar focused the event toward addressing Palestinian oppression and murder, and said she advocates for everyone’s freedom.
“Palestinian liberation is very much tied to the liberation of all people,” Morrar said. “This campus is well known for its historic events in terms of youth led movements and academic freedom, and everything combined together for us today to express our voices.”
Despite the political issue surrounding the event, recreation, parks and tourism management major Joselyn Franco said she appreciates being apart of the diverse campus community.
“Even though I don’t necessarily look into what’s going on in the Middle East,” Franco said. “I still feel exposed to it on campus through things like this.”
Hartenstein said that the tension between the groups is warranted and that the Israel/Palestine conflict is a heated political debate at the moment.
“I hope that one day we can come to a peaceful discussion and dialogue,” Hartenstein said.