Student activists organize Palestine Liberation Week

Photo Courtesy of Danely Quiroz

 

The Political Awareness Committee (PAC), the Palestinian Study Group (from a RACE 298 Independent Study class) and Passion Project organized Palestine Liberation Week in order to provide information on Palestinian resistance and culture to St. Olaf students and faculty.

Primary organizers, including PAC Coordinator Danely Quiroz ’21, Head Editor of Passion Project Zibby Trewartha-Weiner ’21, Maha Abadi ’21, Ella Panchot ’22 and Hanane Idihoum ’23, changed the name from the more commonly known Israel Apartheid Week (IAW) to Palestine Liberation Week.

“[Israeli Apartheid Week] is something that happens traditionally across college campuses,” Quiroz said. “But some other colleges, including our group, did not want to focus on apartheid. We wanted to highlight and amplify Palestinian voices and resistance. The media only centers on the violence perpetrated against them.”

Beginning March 28, the week-long event provided multiple resources for students to connect and directly engage with the liberation movement. The hallway between Buntrock commons and Rolvaag Memorial Library displayed information on the movement and Palestinian history and was decorated with Palestinian flags and olive branches. Zines to display symbols of resistance through photography, digital art and prose hung from vines on either side of the hallway.

 

The hallway between Buntrock Commons and Rolvaag Library displayed information on the liberation movement and Palestinian history. Photo Courtesy of Danely Quiroz.

 

“It was impossible to ignore because it was interactive,” Trewartha-Weiner said. “I felt inspired by that. It was celebratory towards Palestinian experiences and their connections to land. That was one of our goals.”

The organizers streamed the film “Naila and the Uprising” in Viking Theater on March 30 to highlight the prominent role of Palestinian women in the first Intifada. The film, directed by Julia Bacha, blended direct interviews and archival footage with the medium of animation.

PAC also provided free copies of “Palestine: A Socialist Introduction” written by Sumaya Awad and Brian Bean, activists of the Palestinian liberation movement, to offer an educational resource to interested parties. The organizers led a discussion of the book’s first chapter, “Roots of the Nabka: Zionist Settler Colonialism,” as an introductory conversation on Zionism and its direct ties to colonialism and imperialism.

“The book was very important to us because it laid a foundation about what we learned in our study group. So people will know that we are anti-Zionists, meaning we do not support colonialism, we do not support white supremacy and we want to lift up the voices of Palestinians this week,” Panchot said.

Co-author Awad, an anti-imperialist socialist, discussed the United States’ geopolitical interest in Israel, the Canary Mission blacklist which harasses student activists in solidarity with Palestine and the weaponization of anti-Semitism during an event on April 1. Awad condemned Zionism for operating on colonialism, ethnic cleansing and overall human rights violations.

“It’s important that people don’t conflate anti-Israel with anti-Semitism as well. There’s a difference between being Zionist and being Jewish,” said PAC Executive Assistant Monique Geronimo ’21.

The week concluded with an in-person event in Buntrock Commons crossroads on April 2, where performances by organizers were held in dedication to Palestine. Students gathered together to hear people sing, recite poetry and prose and hear the voices of Palestinian students.

“What was so beautiful was the people coming forward — people outside of St. Olaf campus, outside of Northfield … people from Rhode Island, New York — they were people from other organizations, people who I never interacted with, telling me how beautiful this week had been,” Quiroz said. “That it had been transformative and had so much intention … to echo the words of another PAC member, liberation is beautiful.”


cajiao1@stolaf.edu