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Sunday, April 14, 2024
The Observer

‘Palestine is an American issue’: Student Voices for Palestine host fundraiser, film screening to raise awareness

As part of Palestinian Liberation Week, Student Voices for Palestine (SVP) will be hosting a Palestinian cultural cafe, a documentary screening, a talk by activist Lesley Williams and a mutual aid fundraiser Monday through Thursday.

Courtesy of Farah Khashman.
Daniel Bannoura delivered a lecture on the Palestine and Israel conflict February 21, 2023, which was hosted by Student Voices for Palestine.

Traditionally, this week is known as Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW) across the world. The observance originated in 2005 at the University of Toronto during the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

“IAW aims to raise awareness about Israel’s decades-old regime of settler-colonialism and apartheid over the Palestinian people and to mobilize global action to help dismantle it​,” the BDS movement’s website says.

Senior Thanh Nguyen, a leader of Student Voices for Palestine, explained the use of the name “Palestinian Liberation Week” as opposed to IAW.

“In our conversations, we wanted to center policy narratives to… turn our gaze away from the oppressor and towards Palestine and Palestinian communities,” Nguyen said.

Graduate student Daniel Bannoura, who is from Palestine and is another leader of Student Voices for Palestine, highlighted the importance of the week’s events in an American context.

“U.S. tax dollars support the oppression of the Palestinians and it is US foreign policy that is effectively hurting and has maintained a normalized system of oppression… the bullets that were killing Palestinians and the bombs destroying homes were made in Pennsylvania and the planes were made by Lockheed Martin,” Bannoura said.

Bannoura also talked about the lack of awareness about Palestine on campus.

“Notre Dame is a very sanitized, mostly white space,” Bannoura said. “It's very unsettling for someone like me… for example, in 2021, when Israel bombed Gaza, I completely shut down… I couldn't work… I got incompletes on all my papers. But when you walk around [on campus], and no one has a clue… that’s why SVP, this activism and our events, is essential.”

On Monday, the club will host a “Palestinian Cultural Cafe” at Hagerty Family Cafe from 6 to 7 p.m. Students will be performing Arabic songs like “Wa Ana Amshi” by Marcel Khalife, “Lamma Bada Yatathana” by Lena Chamamyan and “Masar” by Le Trio Joubran. Attendees can do Palestinian crafts like embroidery while they listen to the music and try traditional snacks.

There will be a screening and discussion of the documentary “Children of Shatila” on Tuesday in room 246 of Duncan Student Center. The film is about the Sabra and Shatila massacre of 1982 where Lebanese militia attacked Palestinian refugees living in Lebanon in coordination with the Israeli government. According to Al Jazeera, around 2,000 to 3,500 people were killed in the massacre.

Farah Khashman, a senior involved in communications for SVP, said the club’s past two film screenings were a success.

Khashman is an international student from Jordan. Her maternal grandmother fled Jerusalem to Egypt in 1948 when Palestinians were forced out. Her maternal grandfather, who died before she was born, was originally from Nablus and fought against the Israeli occupation of Palestine.

Khashman highlighted the value of film screenings in providing awareness to students who may not have a personal connection to the region like she does.

“[The screenings] really get students emotionally charged and then that is a good segue for us to provide them with some concrete facts about the conflict, especially if the film was their first introduction,” Khashman said.

Lesley Williams, a Black, Jewish activist from Chicago, will be giving a talk titled “Repressing Palestine on Campus” in 1030 Jenkins Nanovic Hall at 6 p.m. Wednesday. Williams is a member of Jewish Voices for Peace, “a national member-driven organization dedicated to a U.S. foreign policy based on peace, human rights, and respect for international law” and the “largest Jewish organization committed to Palestinian liberation in the world,” according to its website.

“A lot of people are scared to engage in healthy advocacy because of the charge of ‘you're going to be antisemitic if you talk about Palestine’ so [Williams’ talk] will address the underlying definitions of what antisemitism is and how it has also been weaponized in the past to repress Palestinian speech on campuses,” Nguyen said.

On Thursday, SVP members will be tabling at 12:30pm in Duncan Student Center near Modern Market. They will be selling merchandise like keffiyeh, or Palestinian scarves, made by Hirbawi factory, the last authentic Palestinian factory producing the products. The proceeds of the sale will go to the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund (PRCF).

The club will also be hosting a mutual aid fundraiser on Thursday in 134 Duncan Student Center from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. where attendees can make and buy bracelets to support PRCF.

In addition, Thursday, March 30, the last day of the club’s week of events, is known as Land Day and is significant to Palestinians.

“In ‘76, Palestinian workers were killed by Israelis,”  Bannoura said. “That led to a lot of protests and eventually, the rise of the Palestinian intifadas, the Palestinian uprising … so every year Palestinians commemorate that day … and not just those in the West Bank and Gaza Strip but also in historic Palestine.”

Khashman emphasized how Land Day is not just about physical land or property.

“If you look up like the Palestinian map over time, you can see how the occupation takes the land but there's also a specific… connection to the land in terms of the olive trees and the lemon trees that we have there,” she said. “There are these iconic pictures of old women hugging trees as the [Israeli] occupation forces for demolition want to come in and cut them down… in Jordan I know that people have these tiny jars that they wear around their necks that have some of the dirt [from ancestral land in Palestine] and the keys to their houses that have been taken away.”

SVP members said that they hope that this week of events will lead to more attention towards issues facing Palestine. Bannoura talked about the double standard that exists on campus with regard to activism.

“When Ukraine was attacked, everyone [on campus] was up in arms… you would think that students would be similarly educated and aware [when it comes to Palestine],” he said.

Nguyen, who worked at the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center in Jerusalem, a Palestinian Christian organization over the summer, highlighted the importance of ideology and Notre Dame’s connection to the issue as an institution.

“Palestine is an American issue,” Nguyen said. “Christian Zionism, which is a theology, in support of Israeli policies and Zionism in general, has been at the forefront of Christian movements, especially… in the U.S.”

“For a lot of Palestinian Christians who are less than… one percent of the population now … understanding the Bible through this lens is problematic. So they started a liberation theology that argues that Jesus was a Palestinian under Roman occupation,” Nguyen added. “This is relevant to Notre Dame because the theology department here is very connected to Jerusalem, and yet they're really hesitant to say anything about the reality on the ground and we think that's pretty problematic for a faith institution.”