Last week, Chicago’s Northwestern University, founded in 1851, held its first ever ‘Social Justice Week’, to provide various student groups to vent their views on country’s foreign, military and social policies – and interfaith dialogue between students of Jewish, Christian, Islamic, Hindu, Sikhism and other faiths.
Several pro-Israel groups criticized Campus authorities for allowing the Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and the Muslim Cultural Student Association (MCSA), to participate in the event. The SJP, a student group made-up of Jewish, Christian, Palestinian and other students, is known for its criticism of Israel’s policies against Native Palestinians and its Arab neighbors.
The SJP was supposed to host four events during the ‘Social Justice Week’, but one was cancelled. The other three included “Hafla By the Rock: Nakba Day Commemoration” which declares the foundation of the Zionist entity on May 14, 1948, by murdering and forced expulsion of 700,000 Native Muslim and Christian Palestinians, as ”catastrophe” and screening of a film “Roadmap to Apartheid“, cmparing the Zionist entity with the former Apartheid South Africa. The interfaith event was addressed by Rabbi Brant Rosen, a known supporter of One Palestine State solution.
The ‘Social Justice Week’ was criticized and boycotted by pro-Israel Jewish/Christian Zionist student advocacy groups like Hillel, Wildcats for Israel, Campus Crusades for Christ and the Sheil Catholic Center.
Dalia Fuleihan and Methew Kovac, two SJP activists debunked the “anti-Israel” allegations against their organization at the Daily Northwestern on May 19, saying:
Hafla by the Rock commemorated the Nakba, when about 700,000 Palestinians were expelled from their homeland. It is a celebration of the steadfastness of Palestinian culture and resistance in the face of continued occupation and denial of rights.
Interfaith Perspectives on Palestine brought members of the three Abrahamic faiths to discuss their personal experiences surrounding Palestine, highlight the common ground that exists between members of the three faiths and emphasize that collaboration is possible to resolve a conflict that is political rather than religious, as it is often portrayed.
Through the use of legal documents and historical facts, the documentary “Roadmap to Apartheid” draws parallels between the Apartheid system in South Africa and Israel’s policies of land and resource control and appropriation in the West Bank and Gaza, the restrictions placed on internal Palestinian movement within those territories, and the secondary status of and denial of rights to Palestinian citizens of Israel. As the film shows, some of the most vocal advocates of this analogy are South Africans who lived under apartheid, including Desmond Tutu, who believe that Israeli policies are as bad or worse than what they experienced under apartheid.
The purpose of these events was to educate the campus community on the oppression faced by Palestinians on a daily basis and provide a starting point for dialogue and action toward achieving equal rights and justice for all living in Israel and the Occupied Territories. This was also part of the larger goal of Social Justice Week, which was to give voice to oppressed and marginalized groups.