Speakers question U.S. role in Middle East conflict

By Lark Turner

Published: Friday, May 7, 2010

Speakers from pro-Palestine groups discussed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in Norris University Center on Thursday night at an event titled “Stories from Palestine: Life Under Israeli Occupation.”

The event, held by Students for Justice in Palestine at Northwestern, brought about 15 students to the Lake Room to discuss the conflict. Speakers from the Palestine Solidarity Group-Chicago encouraged students to write letters to incarcerated Palestinian prisoners and to members of Congress to protest U.S. support of Israel.

“Our main goal is education,” Weinberg senior Iman Boundaoui said. “The importance of today is just educating the general public. You don”t have a lot of opportunities for it.”

Boundaoui is a member of SJP. She said she felt classes at NU were “pretty one-sided” and that the general public is not interested in hearing from Palestinian support groups.

Two speakers from the Palestinian Solidarity Group-Chicago, Bill Chambers and Maureen Murphy, showed a video of Palestinians with Israeli citizenship to begin their presentation. Chambers said he visited Israel last August with four other people.

“I would like to say it”s changing for the better, but that”s simply not true,” Chambers said.

The two compared the situation to apartheid in South Africa and encouraged students to become involved on campus and with a movement to boycott Israel. They also encouraged students to protest the Chicago Sister Cities International”s relationship with the Israeli city Petach Tikva, one of 27 sister cities.

Fatima Mohammadi, who participated in a delegation to Gaza with more than 500 people through Viva Palestina, also spoke at the event.

“The resilience of the Gaza people is unlike anything I”ve ever witnessed in my entire life,” said Mohammadi, who has dual Iranian and American citizenship.

She said she questioned the U.S.”s involvement in the conflict and cited John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt”s book, “The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy,” in her arguments.

Viva Palestina is no longer allowed to enter Gaza through Egypt, Mohammadi said, and the group is now planning to enter by sea. She said her experiences in Gaza have deeply impacted her.

“Every single person who goes comes back completely affected and changed and moved and unable to remain quiet about the situation,” Mohammadi said. “That”s the power of actually going to these places. It”s impossible to walk away and not be affected by it.”

Though Boundaoui acknowledged the small student turnout at the event, she said the group was just getting started. SJP currently has five active members.

“It”s expected,” she said. “We”re kind of a baby organization. It”s hard having people interested in it and also just because of our strong stance on the issue, people with preconceived notions of the conflict will avoid coming to something like this.”

Alex Russell, a Weinberg senior, said he came because he has a friend in SJP who invited him. He said he felt he should know more about the conflict.

“It was definitely a good start for me,” he said. “It gave me a couple topics that I”ll go back and research about on my own time so I can get an even better picture.”

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