The two states of Israel and Palestine have been in conflict since 1947, with the advent of two nationalistic movements — the Arab independence movements and Zionism. Throughout the years, there have been several conflicts and wars between the states of Israel and Palestine, some of which have been transferred to the college campus. The new battlefield is the clash between the Texans for Israel’s annual event Israel Block Party and the Palestine Solidarity Committee (PSC) Israeli Apartheid Week, not coincidentally on the same week in order to promote both group’s agenda and ideologies.
At the University of Texas, the two organizations have long been in conflict — from last year’s divestment campaign to the Israel Block Party and PSC’s annual counter-protest. The problem is students from both the pro-Palestinian and pro-Israel camps, in the past, would rather engage without proper constructive discourse between each other.
Jennifer Medina and Tamar Lewin, writing together for the New York Times, articulate that these organizations dissolve into increased divisiveness and a limited resolution.
“The debates can stretch from dusk to dawn, punctuated by tearful speeches and forceful shouting matches, with accusation of racism, colonialism and anti-Semitism,” Medina and Lewin said. “One of the few things both sides seem to agree on is just how divisive the issue has been.”
In a conflict with so many lives lost and so much emotional investment, it can be expected that students would be so passionate. Both sides have attempted to harm each other — with death tolls clearly leaning towards Palestinians, which could explain the mindset of some pro-Palestinian students towards pro-Israel events. Seth Uzman, economics junior and officer for the Palestine Solidarity Committee, said in a Facebook message that the Israeli Block Party “celebrates the culture of a settler-colonial nation-state founded upon the ruins of Palestinian society.”
“The event itself is a hieroglyph of racism and ethnic cleansing,” Uzman said. “People forget that protests are often called ‘demonstrations’ because they are demonstrations of ‘power’ — the Israeli Block Party Protest demonstrates the power of a global and growing movement against Israeli apartheid that has clocked the survival of its settler-colonial infrastructure with an egg-timer.”
The emotion is appropriate and necessary, especially with the devastation of what the Israeli government has done to the Palestinian people. The response, however, needs to be directed to something more constructive and more cooperative between the two organizations; otherwise, the divisiveness on campus will increase indefinitely. Government sophomore Jenna Conwisar and international relations sophomore Jacob Przada, Israel Block Party co-chairs, emphasize the need to address the controversy surrounding the conflict.
“One specific way we are doing this is by the inclusion of our newest tent at Israel Block Party, Controversy and Question,” Conwisar and Przada said via Facebook message. “It was very important for us to include this as one of our showcase tents this year, rather than the smaller space it’s been in past years, because we wanted to highlight the importance of dialogue.”
Although both organizations promote dialogue in order to address the greater conflict, they aren’t cooperating with each other. Both Texans for Israel and the Palestine Solidarity Committee could be promoting dialogue within their own respective organizations, but until they are working together rather than against each other, there won’t be a resolution and the divisiveness will increase — just like with their state counterparts.
Choudhury is an economics freshman from Richardson. He is a senior columnist. Follow him on Twitter @MubarratC.