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The General Union of Palestine Students (GUPS) hosted “Palestine Awareness Week” (PAW) Monday March 26 through Saturday March 31 at SF State to create a dialogue about the Israel-Palestine conflict and to demonstrate the continuing fight of Palestinian, Arab and Muslim communities here on campus as well as throughout the world.
The awareness week is officially called “Israel Apartheid Week” by other organizations and typically includes “a wide range of events from lectures, film screenings, cultural performances … [as well as] setting up apartheid walls on campuses” according to apartheidweek.org.
A member of GUPS, who wishes to remain anonymous, said that the group at SF State chose to rename their event “Palestine Awareness Week” to take the focus away from Israel and amplify the spotlight on Palestine, hopefully minimizing hostile campus tensions. GUPS has publicly stated that Palestinian students feel marginalized and unsafe on campus, so the goal of this event was to raise awareness of the Israel-Palestine conflict and the Palestinian experience, not to incite further conflict.
In an introductory speech on Monday, the first day of the week-long event, two members of GUPS, who wish to remain anonymous, stated that the purpose of the event was to create awareness and to start a dialogue about Israel’s imposed apartheid system over Palestinian people as well as the call for Israel to comply with the Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) movement in hopes to end Israeli apartheid.
There were no apartheid walls or demonstrations on SF State campus this year, but GUPS did facilitate an open dialogue in Malcolm X Plaza featuring a series of political signs, posters, art and a film screening.
The Israel-Palestine conflict is a complicated issue that dates back to World War II. The United Nations proposed a plan in 1947 to establish a state for displaced Jews by separating Palestine — the geographical area that Jews claim as their ancestral homeland — into two sections under the responsibility of Britain. The two sections consisted of an independent Jewish state (Israel) and an independent Arab state (Palestine).
Although Palestinian Arabs strongly opposed this plan, the independent state of Israel was established in 1948. Since then, tensions between Jews/Israelis and Muslims/Arabs in the Middle East has intensified.
Israelis believe that they have a right to the area because of the UN decision and Palestinians believe that Israelis are illegally and unethically occupying their country.
Over the last 50 years, Israel has expanded its borders past the original 20,770 square kilometers demarcated in the 1949 Armistice Agreements and claimed an additional 7,029 square kilometers of land in the form of territories.
According to Amnesty.org, Palestinian civilians have subsequently experienced oppression by the Israeli government in these Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories.
GUPS also aimed to use PAW to connect students to Palestinian, Arab and Muslim issues that are occurring here at SF State, like the lawsuit against Professor Rabab Abdulhadi that was dismissed by federal court earlier this month.
As the week came to an end, GUPS also held a protest in Civic Center Union Plaza on March 31 in participation with other organizations throughout the state in connection to the Israeli massacre that caused deaths of 15 Palestinians and injured dozens in the border of Israel and Gaza as thousands gathered to be part in the “March of Return.”