Palestine 101: Palestine Awareness Week

Photo by Devika Shenoy

Week 8 at UCLA corresponds with “Palestine Awareness Week,” an event sponsored by the UCLA campus chapter of the Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP). On Monday, Norah Sarsour, a founding member of SJP and a member of the UCLA Class of 2009, shared her experiences as a Palestinian activist. The event was titled “Palestine 101,” covering both historical and contemporary conflicts in Palestine.

Sarsour narrated her perception of the Palestinian struggle through her own experiences living in Palestine. She reflected that her experience and this segment of her reality constitutes the whole reality for thousands and thousands of Palestinians.

As we work to develop our understanding of the Israeli-Palestine conflict, Sarsour reminds us that we cannot dehumanize the Palestinian population to statistics. The tendency for researchers and journalists and activists to visit Palestine and “study them” allows for the silencing of nuanced narratives. This leads to Sarsour’s general theme: humanizing Palestine.

Another topic covered was the creation of boundaries in the geographical space. She notes, “These boundaries are here because of European colonizers mapping out the space. We did not exist according to those boundaries.” Her words mark the importance of acknowledging the history and colonization of Palestine, and the development and perpetration of imperialist goals.

She points out that “the boundaries do not narrate the relationship we all have with the land.” She detailed the experience of her grandparents, who resided in the pre-British Ottoman Empire, as they recall a time without rigid borders; a time filled with fluid culture where they could drive from Jordan to Iraq without facing the intimidating and constant border checks present today. Palestinian identity is contingent upon the heritage, the history, and the culture, not the borders that were arbitrarily enforced by foreign powers.

So what can we do to support the movement? According to Sarsour, it is the dialogue and the education that helps facilitate the dialogue. “Solidarity shows the strength of human connection,” and having the conversation facilitates education and awareness about the atrocities occurring in the region.

While I had the privilege of attending “Palestine 101,” a discussion on humanizing Palestinians, SJP is organizing more events later this week, with the locations and times provided below:

Tuesday, 2/26 6:30 p.m.: “Cultural Night with Clarissa Bitar” at Kerckhoff Art Gallery
Wednesday, 2/27 7:30 p.m.: “Screening: In Between” / Bar Bahar
Thursday, 2/28 6:30 p.m.: “Organizing at the Intersections with Yazan Zahzah and Randa Jarrar” at Boelter 5249
Friday, 3/1 6:30 p.m.: “Power and Oppressive Systems with Nada Elia and Gil Hochberg” at Dodd 170

In addition, SJP constructed a wall of information on the Israeli occupation of Palestine in Wilson Plaza (in between the Student Activities Center and Kaufman Hall.) Happy Palestine Awareness Week!

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