Israel Block Party continues as students protest for Palestinian solidarity

Kylee Howard, Senior News Reporter

Editor’s note: A previous version of this story misquoted a sign held by a protester. The Texan regrets this error.

The student-run Palestine Solidarity Committee gathered on the steps of McCombs to protest against Palestinian mistreatment by Israeli forces, chanting directly in front of the Israel Block Party on Wednesday.

The Israel Block Party is a yearly event put on by Texas Hillel, UT’s Jewish student center, and is the nation’s largest pro-Israel college event, according to their website

Around 70 students and community members protested across from the event located on Speedway Mall, opposing human rights violations against Palestinians by Israel. PSC also protested the event last year

“We always prepare a lot for this event, this big protest,” said one of the student organizers, who asked to remain anonymous due to safety reasons. “We plan a weeklong series of events called Israel Apartheid Week.”

Israel Apartheid Week consists of a series of cultural events intended to keep Palestinian culture alive and dismantle oppression, according to PSC.

“(It’s to) keep our culture alive and to expose students around us to Palestinian art, Palestinian cultural history to show the world that we’re still here,” said the organizer. 

According to Human Rights Watch, an international organization investigating human rights abuses globally, Israel is an apartheid state in which Palestinians are often forcibly displaced in disputed territories by Israeli officials. 

Texas Hillel declined to comment on both the Block Party and the opposing protest. 

One participant, Michael Katz, said although he is not a student, he wanted to show support. He held a sign that said, “I’m Jewish, and I don’t support Israel. Please ask me why!”

Although PSC is student-run, they often host events to spread awareness of Palestinian liberation to the general Austin area.

“People would say, ‘With all the human rights violations in the world, why are you focused on this one? Do you hate yourself or something?’” Katz said. “No, I do not hate myself. I don’t hate the Jewish religion.” 

Katz said he believes people who support Palestinian human rights are unfairly called antisemitic, given the religious history of Israel. 

“I feel like I have to be here and say no, that it’s not antisemitic to support the right of Palestinians to return,” Katz said.

UTPD was present for the student-led protest on Speedway, but said they were there to monitor as they do every year. 

“There’s not really an expiration date on our protests,” the organizer said. “It’s not something that we’re quitting. Palestine is not something that we (will) ever stop representing.”