Palestinian Awareness Week highlights conflict abroad

With countless on-campus groups advocating for a wide range of issues, there are many opportunities for students to speak out about their own concerns in order to educate and inform the St. Olaf community.

Oles for Justice in Palestine OJP is one such group. Most St. Olaf students have heard of the Israeli-Palestine conflict and have expressed interest in raising awareness on the issue. As the siege on Gaza remains in place and Samer Issawi’s hunger strike continues, OJP has heightened the volume of its activism in hopes of sharing its perspective with other students.

Since its formation in 2008, OJP has worked to promote awareness on campus about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Its mission is to promote human rights, justice, democracy and independence in Palestine.

After hosting several successful educational events first semester, OJP is continuing to plan activities for raising awareness.

Recently, members covered the hallway leading to the library with information about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, illustrating the story of the struggle and dispute through words and images.

A few days ago, however, the Palestinian flags were stolen from the hallway and, according to an email from Vice President Greg Kneser and Dean of Students Rosalyn Eaton-Neab ’87, “someone wrote ‘Death to Gaza’ on a poster in the display.”

Asil Abuassba ’15, president of OJP, expressed her disappointment at this: “I think it would be great if people could show up to the events and ask us [about our beliefs], instead of resulting to immature and childish behavior, such as taking away the flags.”

This past weekend, the organization hosted a movie night featuring the documentary “Conflict 101.” Members of OJP hope to show students a perspective on the conflict that is not often illuminated in western media.

With this goal in mind, on Sunday, March 3, OJP will team up with the Wendell Berry House to host an event educating attendees about the struggles of farmers and fishermen in Gaza. The event aims to be an evening filled with interesting information and delicious food and will hopefully bring to light an issue many Oles may not even be aware of.

Members of OJP desire not only to educate Oles about the conflict, but also to help them understand the violations of human rights that have arisen and continue to occur today.

In April, OJP will host a hands-on activity in Buntrock, simulating what it is like to go through a checkpoint. As students enter the building, they will have the opportunity to role-play different people involved in the conflict and to compare their varying experiences with others.

OJP hopes this will give St. Olaf students a glimpse into the everyday life for Palestinians. Also in April, OJP will feature a display to illuminate the issue of apartheid in Palestine.

“We feel the Palestinian narrative is not represented in Western media, especially in the U.S., and we want to let people know what is going on,” Abuassba said.

Many similar organizations have sprouted up in colleges across the nation, aiming to educate students about the situation in Palestine.

OJP members understand the sensitivity of the issue and asks St. Olaf students to think about the issue from all sides.

“This is a controversial topic,” Abuassba said. “Ask us and challenge us, because through discussion we come to a point where we get to learn.”

Members of OJP meet on Tuesdays at 7 p.m. in Buntrock 144. Interested students can also check out the information in the hallway leading to the library and take part in the many upcoming events and activities.

“Our goal is to promote justice,” Abuassba said. “This isn’t about who is winning. It’s not about whose side to be on. It is about ending human rights violations and improving lives.”

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