Last week, UCI’s Muslim Student Union (MSU) hosted their “Anti-Zionism Week,” on Ring Road with an interactive display of the wall between Israel and the West Bank, amongst other events, to “shed light on the different aspects of the Israeli Occupation of Palestine.”
Before even discussing the cause, or where this entire week went wrong, when did it become a Muslim obligation to solely speak on behalf of the Palestinians? Palestinians belong to a variety of faiths, including Christianity. By hosting the event on behalf of MSU, it falsely portrays the image that the Palestinian cause is religiously motivated and is unattractive to Palestinians who belong to a different faith. While I understand that Muslims feel obligated to help oppressed Muslims around the world, they should be considered a partner in the venture, not the sole host. Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) should recruit members from MSU and become a strong enough group to host events in support of the Palestinian cause so that MSU doesn’t have to.
Now, let’s look at the title, “Anti-Zionism Week.” The Zionist movement calls for a Jewish national state in present-day Israel and Palestine. Zionism is not an inherently bad movement and it’s wrong to blame the condition of the Palestinians on Zionism. Religious groups have the right to a national-state. If Muslim states are allowed to exist, why can’t Jewish states? And even if you do not support the state of Israel, it exists. So I suggest you find another issue to nit-pick at.
To clarify, I in no way support the Israeli government or their policies and attitudes toward Palestine and identify as “pro-Palestinian,” however you would like to take that. I believe that the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza is illegal and that the development of future settlements should halt, amongst other things. However, my frustration is with Israel’s government — not with its people, or the concept of Zionism, and it’s wrong to group a wide range of people under the umbrella of “Zionists.” The language is antagonistic, hostile and alienates people who have a connection to Israel, either through religion or nationality.
However, I believe that there is a way of expressing that discontent in a positive, constructive light without attacking another group of people.
The best part of the week was getting a free water canteen, only after hearing an organizer of the event read off a script about the Israeli control of the water supply, which I completely accepted. The bothersome part was the fact that I was read a script and that even the organizers of the events were not well-versed with the problems they are trying to advocate.
I have never been to the region, but I imagine the conditions must be far less than pleasurable. While this may be the case, it is important to understand the weight of language when discussing a topic as sensitive as this one. Framing a situation in a way that is attractive and positive is the most important of any activist cause. iFest 2014 is happening this week, a week dedicated to celebrating Israel. To me, that sounds much more appealing. Students who see advertisements for these events will pick up on general messages. AZW’s focus was targeting Zionists and talking about the horrors of the Palestinians, while iFest celebrates their nation and culture. On pure advertising, iFest is warm and welcoming and AZW is trying to pick a fight. You decide which one you’d rather attend.
I want to be proud of a Palestinian group at UCI that advocates for the cause without needing to put other people down. I want a group that productively brings light to the struggles that Palestinians go through every day. And right now, I’m not proud.
Filed Under: Opinion