Muslim Student Union (MSU) held their annual Apartheid Week from May 5 to May 12, devoting their time to spreading awareness about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The event was co-sponsored by Alkalima, Students for Peace and Justice (SPJ), American Indian Student Association (AISA), El Movimiento Estundiantil Chicano / a de Atzlan (MECHA), Radical Student Union (RSU) and Dedication for the Realization of an Education and Always Motivated for Success (DREAMS) at UCI.
“The Wall,” a 60-foot-long, 15-foot-wide painted wooden structure stood on Ring Road near the flagpoles, with 28 panels detailing information about the conflict, including statistics, maps, quotes and images.
The wall was built by MSU-UCI, and it is annually updated. It travels to different universities for other Muslim groups and justice for Palestine groups’ events, even traveling to Arizona last year to be presented at ASU.
“The Wall is really effective because it’s a gigantic display you see walking through the busiest part of campus. It grabs people’s attentions right away,” said Hamza Sidiqui, communications officer of MSU.
The week’s events included speakers Michael Prysner, an Iraq War veteran; Hedy Epstein, a Jewish holocaust survivor; Dr. Hatem Bazian, a professor from UC Berkeley who started a Justice for Palestine group; Alison Weir, an American freelance journalist who has reported from the Gaza Strip and former U.S. Ambassador Edward Peck.
Sidiqui said that the goal of the Apartheid Week’s events was education, stressing that uninformed or unaffected students should still be aware of the conflict.
“You don’t have to be a Muslim, an Arab, or a Palestinian to support this cause,” Sidiqui said. “You have to be a humanitarian.”
A mock refugee camp was also visible on Ring Road, with small quarters made of sheets and stocked with scant supplies, a picture meant to show the difficulties faced by displaced Palestinians. A row of mock-child coffins were placed nearby to represent lives of children lost due to violence.
MSU hosted official wall tours three times a day this year, where a speaker guided visitors around the wall and explained the content.
UCI PD reported that no major incidents of conflict occurred during the week, and stated that the university climate was more civil than in years past.
“Certainly one of the things about MSU Week is that there is the opportunity for a multitude, a wide diversity of voices and opinions to be expressed,” Chief of Police Paul Henisey said. “And from our perspective we want those opinions and views to be expressed in a civil nature, with an appropriate approach, and discussion. We do think that this year we’ve seen much more of that, and I think it’s a credit to the students, to the student leadership of several of the groups.”
“It was a lot more toned down this year, everyone seems to be getting along a little bit better,” said Mike, a senior history major, who also attended Apartheid Week in 2010 and 2009.
“I don’t have a side either way, because I think both sides have points that are true to a certain extent. The only thing I noticed was that I thought it was hypocritical that they praise the efforts of the Irvine 11 last year for interrupting a speaker, while at the same time for their own event have signs that say don’t interrupt,” said Phillip, a second-year economics major.
Other students however, expressed slightly different views of the event.
“The signs and the police presence is intimidating … It doesn’t make me feel safe,” said Elliot Davoren, a second-year earth systems science major. This was his first year attending Apartheid Week at UCI.
Lindsay Grant, a third-year political science major said she had seen the display on Ring Road as she passed by throughout the week but had never stopped to listen until she saw that an Iraq War military vet was speaking.
“He [the speaker] was from the military, and I’m a military brat. It was different to see a different perspective than what I get at home,” said Grant, whose dad and boyfriend are Navy Seals. “I think these events are informative, and it’s good to hear both sides. It’s amazing here that the students can get both perspectives.”
The speakers were all generally well-received.
“I thought it was a very good point that the speaker made when he said that he went into the military believing so much that he would die for some cause, and then later realizing it was wrong,” said “Mike,” a fourth-year math major.
“I came to hear the speeches and show Jewish support not obviously for MSU but for AFI and Alpha Epsilon Pi and the Jewish kids on campus and I think it’s important that we’re here listening to show that we care and we can listen in a respectful way to what they have to say,” said Alexia Joslin, a fourth-year neuroscience major. “Just because it’s not as violent this year, doesn’t mean you feel better with people like the last name Cohen speaking against Israel. I think it’s meant to upset in the same amount, and that doesn’t make it OK.”