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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

BSJP give insight into Palestinian perspective

Published: February 8, 2008
Section: Arts, Etc.

Billed as “a week of collective action against collective punishment in Gaza,” Brandeis Students for Justice in Palestine, a newly formed student group, organized two events this week – a screening of the film “Gaza Strip” and a panel discussion featuring Sociology Professor Gordon Fellman and Harvard graduate student Sa’ed Adel Atshan.

Brandeis Students for Justice in Palestine (BSJP) formed recently as a collaboration of a few individual students looking to show the Brandeis community a side of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that they believe is not represented at Brandeis.

“People have a right to know the other side of the conflict,” said Mamoon Darwish ’11, an active member in the BSJP. The group seeks to let people “see what you would never see on the free 10-day trip to Israel,” continued Darwish – referring to the birthright program.

BSJP, according to a preliminary mission statement is “organized on democratic principles to promote justice, human rights, liberation and self-determination for the Palestinian people” and is open to everyone regardless of religious beliefs.

Though BSJP is not yet a recognized or chartered club, the group organized a Palestinian awareness week that kicked off with a candle-lighting at the peace circle.

The group showed James Longley’s documentary “Gaza Strip” in the Shapiro Campus Center Tuesday evening. The film focuses on Mohammed Hejazi, a 13-year-old who lives in Gaza City. Using footage that was filled in the Gaza strip in 2001, much of the film revolves around the constant violence that occurred during that time.

Hejazi talks throughout the movie about the struggles in his life, the loss of many of his friends’ lives, and his pessimism about the conflict. Longley interviews dozens of Palestinians who continually describe the violence that has occurred in the area and make the case that Israel has done grave injustices to them and the people of the Gaza Strip. These interviews are accompanied by images, often graphic, of Palestinians being shot at, bombs going off, and bodies continually being taken into hospitals.

After the movie ended there was a silence, as people seemed not sure what to say after the movie.

“I knew it was going to show the Palestinian side going into seeing the movie, and what the Israelis are doing is terrible,” commented David Azer ’11.

“The movie was a little scary to see the kids and how much hatred they had for Jews, but I wouldn’t expect anything less with they have to go through and their lives being constantly uprooted.”

Alex Lao ’11 also had a strong reaction to the movie saying, “One of the things that stood out were seeing many of the children in the movie talking about how they would rather die than living in the conditions they are under was really powerful, and it shows there’s a real need for help.”

The panel on Thursday evening opened up with a lecture from the chair of the Peace, Conflict, and Coexistence Professor Gordon Fellman.

Fellman was clear that he believed that while both the Israelis and Palestinians are “both the victims and victimizers – the relationship is asymmetrical.” Fellman spoke against the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories and said that the Israelis should take the first step towards peace because “the Israelis have the political power and military strength to end the occupation.”

Fellman also spoke about his distinction between the “accomadationists,” the people who support a two state solution; and the “rejectionists,” the people who reject a two state solution. “The conflict is not really between the Israelis and Palestinians but it’s between the ‘accomadationists’ and the ‘rejectionists’ on both sides.” “What do you do with the people who say God will make it come out right?” questioned Fellman referring to the rejectionists on each side that believe God gave their people the entire land.

After Fellman, Sa’ed Adel Atshan, a Harvard graduate student from the West Bank, gave a PowerPoint about his personal experience with the conflict as well as a general overview of the Palestinian view.

Atshan spoke about the current conditions of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, in which he echoed Fellman’s sentiments and referred to Jimmy Carter’s controversial Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid in referring to the human rights violations he believes are occurring. Atshan said that in the American media, “Rarely do you get to see Palestine through the eyes of Palestinians,” although he believes the story is becoming more balanced and “in the US, people are waking up beginning to smell the coffee.”