Social Justice Week sheds light on Palestine

The sociology club brought awareness to Social Justice Week with many different seminars and opportunities to get students involved. 

One of the seminars they put on focuses on Palestine and Israel.

The seminar began with a man in a green “Save Palestine” shirt named Rebel Fagin, asking the audience to imagine what Palestine looks like. 

He described some common American stereotypes of Palestine and points out how incorrect these misconceptions are.

Fagin proceeded to mention some myths and facts about Palestine and Israel.

“Myth: Israel is the only democracy in the region. Fact: Israel is a democracy for about 80 percent of the population, those who are Jewish,” said Fagin. “Those who are not live under a separate set of laws with diminished rights which, according to the United Nations, makes it an apartheid state.”

Fagin shared more myths and facts before sharing how Sonoma State University students are being affected by what’s happening in Palestine and Israel, and how students can get more involved. Fagin suggests starting a “Students for Justice in Palestine club” on campus.

For students interested in more information, Fagin suggested visiting bdsmovement.net, jewishvoiceforpeace.org and ifamericaknew.org.

Fagin then handed the mic over to Therese Mughannam, a Palestinian woman who has been living in the United States since the age of 10.

Mughannam began her presentation with a PowerPoint. One of the first slides on the screen displays maps showing how Palestine has changed from 1947 to 2010. 

After the Partition of 1947, Palestine became roughly 50 percent Palestine and 50 percent Israel. From this point forward, Israel began to expand as Palestine began to shrink. 

In the 2010 map, Israel maked up roughly 80 percent of the land and Palestine made up 20 percent.

“The majority of the Palestinian people were basically displaced from Palestine, including my own family,” said Mughannam. “I was just a few months old so I don’t remember any of that stuff, but I grew up in it.”

Mughannam compared her story to a scenario of if a homeless person came into an audience member’s house and refused to leave.

Mughannam continued to mention the thousands of people that were massacred and the 800,000 people who were displaced in order to create Israel. 

She suggested students read Ilan Pappe’s, “The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine” and Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi’s “Original Sins” to learn more about that time period through the writings of Israeli historians.

“Just yesterday I was in a group with two Rabbis and they talked about how difficult it is for them to deal with what is going on in Israel/Palestine today. Many Jews don’t agree with what’s going on. They don’t agree with what the Israeli government is doing to the Palestinians in their name,” said Mughannam.

Mughannam also showed pictures taken during her last trip to Palestine. She showed pictures of demolished buildings, a 26-foot-tall concrete wall that extends miles into the West Bank and pictures of Palestinian students who have missed their classes after waiting in line for hours at a checkpoint.

“Just like you, your age, they couldn’t get to their classes. They had to go through the checkpoints. At some point people give up,” said Mughannam. “They say, ‘I’m going to go to Germany’ or ‘I’m going to go here or there and get my education.’ These are really very motivated, very bright kids and they’ve figured out that their ticket to success is their education.”

The final person to speak was a Jewish woman named Lois Pearlman. She began by talking about how myths are created.

“These myths don’t just sort of come out of the blue sky, they’re actually created. The Israeli government creates these myths,” said Pearlman.

When asked why Sonoma State students should get involved in this matter, especially ones who are neither Jewish or Palestinian, Fagin responded that she is neither Palestinian or Jewish and it comes down to justice.