Every May, the Muslim Student Union, along with a coalition of various student groups, puts on a series of events about the Palestinian-Israeli issue in which the goal is to promote a better understanding of the conflict and to foster critical thinking and debate. Through dynamic talks and interactive installations, we hope to pave a path to engage the student body and faculty in exploring the potential for change. By empowering students with more knowledge, independent of western media bias and bigoted perceptions, we hope to encourage active involvement in promoting a just solution in the region. This week, we will show the tragedy in the loss of humanity when rhetoric and politics take precedence over coexistence and compassion.
A university serves as the free marketplace of ideas. As students, it is important that we are exposed to different perspectives and challenge everything that we hear, whether it is in our classes or in the media. As such, we invite students, faculty and the community at large to attend our programs with an open mind that is ready to listen, understand and question. As a campus community, we feel this is the best way to create dialogue around issues which are sometimes considered taboo.
Violence can only generate more violence and May 14, 2009 marks 61 years since the inception of the Palestinian tragedy and the creation of the state of Israel; a state based on dispossession, displacement and the continuing ethnic cleansing of a people who have become the largest group of refugees in the world.
The state of Israel is based on Zionism, a political movement that has called for the establishment of a Jewish state and has thereby necessitated the occupation of Palestine. Instead of turning the region into a safe haven for the Jewish people, it has left thousands of innocent men, women and children dead; it has shattered the livelihood of millions of people facing the scourge of the longest, most brutal occupation in modern history. Above all, this is a humanitarian issue and humanity goes beyond political, religious and racial boundaries.
The United States plays a significant if not a central role in the Palestinian-Israeli issue. As taxpaying American citizens, it is important to be aware of how our money is utilized. Every year, the U.S. provides $3 billion worth of aid to the state of Israel, which is equivalent to $6.8 million per day, making Israel the largest recipient of U.S. foreign aid annually. These U.S. tax dollars directly fund Israeli military operations and has led to a reliance on military, rather than diplomatic, means to work for a solution to this ongoing conflict.
This diversion of U.S. tax dollars reduces funding for education and social programs here in the U.S. and hinders work toward a fair solution abroad. Instead of spending money to develop adequate and affordable health care programs, helping U.S. citizens who are being kicked out of their homes and assisting more students who are facing the threat of severe increases in tuition expenses, the U.S. arms proponents of massive human rights abuses and sets itself in opposition to many Arab and European nations who recognize the horrors of the occupation. Furthermore, under the Arms Export Control Act and the Foreign Assistance Act, the U.S. cannot provide military funding to countries that engage in a consistent pattern of war crimes and gross violations of international law, deeming the U.S. funding of Israel illegal.
Attend our events to hear a rarely publicized perspective. It begins on Monday with the president of the National Lawyers Guild, Jim Lafferty, then on Tuesday with Jewish-American Columbia graduate and Fulbright scholar Anna Baltzer. On Wednesday, Cynthia McKinney, a former U.S. representative and the 2008 Green Party nominee for president of the United States will join us. McKinney was on a humanitarian mission by the Free Gaza Movement when her boat was rammed by the Israeli Navy and barred from reaching Gaza. And on Thursday, Amir Abdel Malik, a community activist based out of Oakland, will share his thoughts on the crisis. Next Thursday, George Galloway, a British politician and a member of Parliament since 1987, will come. Galloway created the Viva Palestina aid convoy to the Gaza Strip in response to the recent war on Gaza, in which he and hundreds of volunteers were able to provide much needed aid to Gaza.
Furthermore, we invite you to question what you hear, do your own research and formulate an opinion on the issue. The real issue about the crisis of Palestine should not get lost in campus politics. We owe it to the people suffering in that region to educate ourselves; especially since our own government helps support many of the policies in Palestine.
For more information on the entire week of events, please visit http://www.msu-uci.com.
Nida Chowdhry is the head of public relations for the Muslim Student Union. She is a fourth-year English major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.