Liberation Week Comes to UCI
The Muslim Student Union aimed to promote activism to end Israeli apartheid and 64 years of oppression of the Palestinian people last week during the club’s annual Palestinian Liberation Week.
“This is a conflict that is very one-sided and this week is about telling the other side,” said Safa Ahmed, Public Relations Manager of the MSU.
Both the flagpoles and the Crystal Cove Auditorium were occupied throughout the week with various speakers and opinions concerning the Israel/Palestine conflict.
The black, green and red painted banner that read, “End Israeli Apartheid,” or the black and red “Death to Apartheid,” banner were held behind the guests presenting at the flagpoles Monday through Thursday at noon.
Monday brought British journalist and activist, Ben White to tell the history of the Israeli apartheid and its relation to the South African apartheid. White presented his case both at the flagpoles and in Crystal Cove. The two events also had him discussing the displacement of Palestinians from their homes and the injustice of particular laws placed on the Palestinian people in Israel.
At the flagpoles, White said that Israel “violates international law,” and in the auditorium he condemned Israel for naming itself as democratic.
“We need to rethink the orthodoxy about Israel’s democratic credentials,” White said as he summed up his PowerPoint presentation in the partially filled auditorium.
He ended his presentation by imploring that the audience “reimagine a future based on a genuine co-existence of equals.”
Tuesday had activist, community leader and imam from Oakland, Amir Adel Malik Ali, presenting a heated and powerful stance on the topics of Zionism and Islamic student activism. Ali, a familiar speaker at the UCI campus, began his vibrant speech discussing his anger toward the U.S. government for the strong support it has for Israel. However, Ali’s presentation did not remain on topic as he progressed to mention injustice for the African-American people and denial of the existence of Al-Qaeda.
“There is no such thing as Al-Qaeda. That’s another deception. There’s like, no such thing as Al-Qaeda,” Ali stressed as he continued with his platform.
During Ali’s fired-up speech, pro-Israel students were handing out pamphlets denouncing Ali’s opinions and asking Abdul Yousef, MSU president, to be ashamed for allowing Ali onto the UCI campus so many times. The flyer also displayed past quotes from Ali such as, “Make no mistake about it, Hamas are our heroes” and “Do you support Jihad on this campus? As long as it’s speaking truth to power, yes.”
Near the end of Ali’s speech, a Zionist Jew from the crowd yelled out, “We’re not allowed to live in our own country?” Ali’s answer of, “It [Israel] is not your country. Y’all from Europe,” was met with many groans and cries of, “Liar!” from the many Jewish people and Israeli supporters in the crowd. The microphone was eventually cut off from Ali, who proceeded on with questions as an audience of about 50 pro-Palestine and pro-Israel huddled around him on the steps to hear the continued debate.
The event at Crystal Cove that night paralleled the apartheid in Israel with the apartheid in South Africa. Stanford law student and activist, Omar Shakir presented in the event titled, “Apartheid Resurrected.”
On Wednesday, the UCI flagpoles greeted Holocaust survivor and peace activist, Hedy Epstein as she spoke in favor of Palestine. Donning a navy blue “Free Palestine” shirt, the 88-year-old Jewish woman calmly presented her case in favor of ending the Israeli apartheid.
“I could go on and tell you all kinds of awful stories about what I’ve experienced of when I was in Palestine and each time that I’ve been there, the situation has gotten worse. And since the last time I’ve been there in 2007, it’s gotten worse yet,” Epstein said.
Wednesday night went on to welcome Dr. Hatem Bazian, senior lecturer at UC Berkeley to speak about contextualizing the politics of Palestine.
Palestinian Liberation Week ended with a speech and panel from members of the Irvine 11. Osama Shabaik, the first who stood and protested against Israeli Ambassador for the United States Michael Oren in 2010, spoke both at the flagpoles and in the panel later that night. His speech at noon had him justifying the stand he took that got him arrested on campus two years ago. His speech did not only defend his activism, but also promoted all student activism.
“Because this should be a message to any activist in this country. That just because somebody doesn’t like what you have to say, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t say it,” Shabaik said before a loud applause.
The liberation week ended with a panel from four members of the famous Irvine 11 at 8 p.m. in Crystal Cove Auditorium. They discussed why they protested in the manner they did back in 2010 and advocated for student activism.
Each event received an audience from about 100 to 200 people throughout the week. Similar faces were present, both for and against Palestine and each event ignited conversation and thought from members of the audience. Along with the estimated 10-by-45-foot wall of painted information on Ring Road, Palestinian Liberation Week achieved its ultimate goal: to spark interest, promote dialogue and raise awareness for the conflicts in Israel and Palestine.