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Students for Justice In Palestine Attempts to Break Barriers

By Zac Schon
On May 3, 2011


Palestine is one of today's hottest topics, as it incites passionate responses from both sides of the political spectrum, and from April 19 to April 21, the issue made itself present at Northeastern Illinois University in the Student Union. Flyers, groups of students clad in t-shirts or yelling are common forms of gathering attention on campus, but rather than take these routes, members at Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) chose to erect a wall to show students the injustices in the region. Members found it to be a most suiting form of visualization as walls have been erected in Palestine to separate villages from their farms and "help form city-states instead of a unified Palestine," said Yousef Arman, president of Students for Justice in Palestine.

The wall comes to the student union after what has been described as a one-sided story at NEIU in regards to how the issue is portrayed on campus. Students from the group feel that for far too long their side of the story has been oppressed and look to advance the issue through education. Arman said that the purpose of the wall is, "to empower people through education. To liberate you must educate." Students for Justice in Palestine are a fully recognized group on campus that boasts 30 members that meets bi-weekly.

There were hurdles to set up the wall on campus. The first wall to be used for the demonstration was refused by the school, which members of SJP believed was due to the message conveyed on the wall. Pictures of the original wall and dimensions were submitted to NEIU in advance, however, five hours before the wall was to be displayed, NEIU refused the display citing safety issues. Students were met with relief when they found that the wood wall originally borrowed from Loyola was refused on the basis of being made of wood and would be some sort of hazard, and were allowed to construct a new wall made of Styrofoam. The new wall contains mostly the same information as the previous wall. However, it is not a complete copy, since Students for Justice in Palestine made a new wall over the course of 10 days, with their own research added.

The wall has not come without opposition, as some students of NEIU have antagonized members of SJP over their content and whether they are allowed to display the wall. While the wall was met with much antagonism, the amount of supporters of the wall outweighed the detractors. Members of SJP reported a civil confrontation with Hillel, a prominently Jewish organization on all college campuses. "It's going to be a struggle, it's not going to be easy," said Wafa Mohamed, Vice President of Students for Justice in Palestine.

Arman stated that one of the best features of the wall is that it shows both sides of the story. Both sides, according to Mohamed, is showing the causes of death of Israeli soldiers (suicide, accident, Palestinian attackers, etc), using Israeli papers for statistics and showing the amount of casualties from both sides. The wall also showed the history of Palestine and Israel's conflict through demographics and the comparison of South African apartheid and Palestine's struggles drawing a strong correlation.

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