Published May 14th, 2009 for The Lantern.
Strong winds threatened to topple their tents, but students representing Palestine gathered on The Oval Tuesday to inform students about the conflict with Israel.
Students from the Ohio State student group Committee for Justice in Palestine showed pictures of refugee camps and maps of disputed areas. Across the path, in The Oval’s center, stood Jewish students who responded to accusations of apartheid-like action committed by Israel against Arabs.
“We are here to commemorate the 750,000 Palestinians ethnically cleansed from their homes with the creation of Israel,” said Saba Maher, a senior in international studies. “Today there are 7 million refugees and the U.N. recognizes them as the second-largest group of refugees in the world.”
Today marks the 61st anniversary of Israeli’s independence. Palestinians refer to the day as al-Nakba, meaning “the great catastrophe.” Passing out baklava and literature on Israeli-Arab relations, Maher and other students answered questions and told stories of their visits to Israel.
“[Palestinians] have good intentions. They want their own country,” said Casey Washer, a junior in Spanish and Russian. “A lot of their leaders are not leading them in the right way, though. One of them, Hamas, has two agendas: get a Palestinian state and destroy Israel. And they put the destruction of Israel before advocating statehood.”
Washer and other Jewish students displayed the Israeli flag from a tent and handed out bracelets with the names of victims killed by terrorists. “We compare it to South African apartheid,” Maher said. He said the policies of Israel are racist and support inequality throughout the region, similar to the regime in South Africa during the ’70s and ’80s.
“Out of all the arguments against Israel, it is the most absurd,” Washer said. “In apartheid Africa you couldn’t vote if you were black, you couldn’t file complaints against the police and couldn’t even leave the country without a permit. In Israel, Arabs can.”
Students were free to stop at each tent to hear as much about the issue as they wanted. “I appreciate the fact that we can have a civil discussion,” said Dan Grible, sophomore in history. “This isn’t something I know a lot about so it’s nice that I can talk to each side.”
The Committee for Justice in Palestine does not take a stance on statehood, preferring to serve as a source of information, Maher said.
Both groups that gathered at The Oval hope for a better understanding of the situation, even if they don’t share the same opinions.
“At then end of the day you do need to know what is going on in the world,” Grible said.