Every May, the Muslim Student Union, along with a coalition of other progressive student groups, puts on a week long series of events about the Palestinian-Israeli issue. This year our events spans over two week and began last Wednesday with a lecture by renowned political scientist Norman Finkelstein. The event, which addressed whether criticism of the state of Israel is anti-Semitic, drew close to six hundred students and community members, with a lively and humorous talk by the professor followed by an interactive question and answer session.
As the MSU, our goal in organizing these events is to promote a better understanding of the conflict, and to open doors for discussion and critical thinking. Furthermore, we hope that by empowering students with a better understanding of the conflict, students will become actively involved in promoting a just solution in the region. As such we invite students, faculty and the community at large to attend our programs with an open mind ready to listen, understand and question. As a campus community, we feel this is the best way to create dialogue around issues which are sometimes considered taboo.
A university serves as the free marketplace of ideas; in this spirit, we invite you all to attend our week on Palestine. May 14, 2008 marks 60 years since the beginning of the Palestinian tragedy, commonly referred to by Palestinians as the Nakba (Catastrophe). 60 years of dispossession, statelessness, and ethnic cleansing have created the largest group of refugees in the world; has left thousands of innocent men, women and children dead; and has shattered the livelihood of millions of people facing the scourge of the longest, most brutal occupation in modern history. This week, we will tell their story, we will mourn their suffering, and we will honor their resistance. This week, we will stand with them.
Our title asks whether another holocaust is on the horizon for the natives of Palestine, as the Israeli deputy of defense threatens. Attend our events to hear our perspective, independent of media bias and negative stereotypes that you may have seen. Furthermore, we invite you to question what you hear, do your own research and formulate an opinion on the issue. The truth speaks for itself.
The real issue about the crisis of Palestine should not get lost in campus politics. We owe it to the people suffering in that region to educate ourselves; especially since our own government helps support many of the policies in place in Palestine. To that end, we have flown in world-renowned Israeli historian Ilan Pappe from the United Kingdom to speak about the history of the region on the anniversary of the Nakba. As an Israeli, he will provide a balanced perspective that sheds light on both sides of the issue.
Cindy and Craig Corrie lost a daughter to the conflict; as Americans who know all to well the costs of the occupation, they will discuss on Tuesday evening why it is important for us to understand the experience of Palestinians and advocate a just solution as their daughter did, before she was brutally murdered by an Israeli soldier. Rachael stood in front of a Palestinian home and tried to stop it from being illegally demolished through non-violent action. Her death stands as a witness to the brutal injustice practiced by Israeli Armed Forces.
Anna Baltzer is a Jewish American Columbia graduate, Fulbright scholar, and the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors. She is a three-time volunteer with the International Women's Peace Service, where she documented human rights abuses in the West Bank and supported the nonviolent movement against the Occupation. Her acclaimed presentation, Life in Occupied Palestine: Eyewitness Stories & Photos, will be presented on Wednesday afternoon.
For more information on the entire week of events, please visit www.msu-uci.com. As a concluding thought, a clarification should be made: Judaism is a religion that is respected and upheld within the Muslim faith, as Moses is a distinguished prophet in the Holy Qur'an. For centuries, Muslims and Jews have lived together in peace and still do live together in peace, even at UC Irvine. Zionism, however, is a political movement that has twisted biblical and historical truths to justify the illegal occupation of Palestine. It is a philosophy that has bred violence over the past 60 years; it has also created inequality and prejudice against innocent Palestinians to make them live as strangers in their own homeland. We draw a clear distinction between the world faith that is Judaism, and the political ideology that is Zionism.
We hope to see you all this week!