The Backpack In The Room

Why the Terrorism Backpack at UCI?

Courtesy of Daniel Narvy

Courtesy of Daniel Narvy

Luckily, terrorism has not been a serious issue in the United States. More accurately, acts of terrorism have not really affected our everyday lives. When we go to airports, we wait a little longer in line thanks to George Bush and our TSA; when we go to governmental buildings we go through metal detectors and have our bags checked, but outside of that, our everyday lives remain relatively the same.

Unusually, there was a giant inflatable backpack on campus near the Student Center that read “It May Be This Obvious” and then under it “No matter the size, a backpack or any object left unattended in a public venue can be an indicator of terrorism.”

We take things for granted in America: freedom of speech, a tame democratic government, and especially in Irvine, very safe lives.

As we see in the news, this is not always the case in other places. The entire Middle East has erupted, the Syrian government has continued their slaughter, celebrations in Egypt have resulted in deaths and the “democratic” Iranian elections have left the world wondering what is next.

This past summer I was in the Middle East, living in Jerusalem. When looking on how to deal with threats of terrorism, it is best to look at the experts, the people who have faced the most terrorism. While terrorism has plagued Israel throughout the entirety of its short existence as a modern state since 1948, there are two especially intense periods of Palestinian uprising, which resulted in hundreds of deaths and thousands of injuries of innocents. These two periods of Arab uprising, the First Intifada from 1987-1993 and the Second Intifada from 2000-2005 were periods of extreme danger to everyone in Israel, woman and child, Muslim, Jew and Christian alike.

During these intifadas, nothing was off limits. Some acts of terror were bombs with shrapnel or ball bearings in backpacks, some were suicide belts or vests, other events were bombs just hidden in populated areas. For example, two bombs placed on busses going to the Central Bus Station in Jerusalem murdered 45 people, a suicide bomber murdered 24 and wounded 130 people in the Smuel HaNavi bombing in 2003  and a suicide bomber murdered 30 and injured 143 in a bombing at a religious service in a hotel in the city of Netanya.

So this begs the question — what is the connection to terrorism in Israel and there being a giant backpack on campus? I see the answer as being very clear; we must be very aware of our surroundings before passing judgment on others. Places are not exploding out of religious intolerance or political reasons like is the case of Israel, but unnecessary violence in America absolutely exists, and I would argue is even increasing. Israel has hotels, pizza restaurants, or buses exploding. America has gang violence in the streets, more and more school shootings, and people are going into movie theaters and killing innocent people.

American tragedies are different than tragedies in the Middle East. To someone in Israel, terrorism is not something they hear about on the news, it is something they live. These are the problems they face. Let’s compare this to Irvine — the biggest problems we have is when there is a little more traffic on the Culver/Michelson intersection. We sometimes get stuck talking to the people on Ring Road trying to sell you something, or in my opinion, the great tragedy of UC Irvine — we do not sell any Coca-Cola products at Zot-N-Go.

A backpack on Ring Road about terrorism at UCI is a little strange, but it serves a bigger point. We at UCI all come from diverse backgrounds and see things in different perspectives because of our different experiences. This campus has an entire week run by anti-Israel bigots criticizing Israel’s reaction to terrorism causing the murder of its civilians. Our narrow-minded student government has made decisions in the past condemning Israel based on situations they have not lived, experienced, or even learned  about in depth.

Before some pass judgment on Israeli governmental policy, they should picture this backpack and realize that it may appear ridiculous displayed on campus, but in other places, it represents true danger.

Daniel Narvy is a third-year political science major. He can be reached at dnarvy@uci.edu