Author Archives: Naomi Dann

Pitzer Students for Justice in Palestine Defy Censorship Attempts with Display of Mock Israeli Apartheid Wall

In defiance against attempts at censorship, Students for Justice in Palestine activists at Pitzer College in Claremont California will erect a mock Apartheid Wall to educate their campus about the Israeli occupation and how Israeli policies confiscate Palestinian land and separate Palestinian families and communities.

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Here is their press release explaining the school’s attempt to censor SJP’s freedom of speech:

Pitzer Students for Justice in Palestine to Display Mock Israeli Apartheid Wall Despite Campus Attempts to Censor Its Speech

Claremont, CA — On Tuesday, March 31st, Pitzer Students for Justice in Palestine will display a mock Israeli apartheid wall on campus to raise awareness about Palestinian suffering and the realities of the Israeli occupation, as well as to stimulate conversation around necessary changes in global and domestic human rights policy. SJP is continuing with this demonstration despite attempts by the administration to censor free speech.

SJP Member Dan Solomon explains, “Pitzer College prides itself on ‘social responsibility’, ‘interdisciplinary learning’, and ‘student engagement’ so we hope that the administration will not interfere with our attempt to display those values in our political demonstration. We intend to educate our campus about the Israeli apartheid wall and to build the movement pressuring Israel to respect basic human rights.”

SJP is dismayed at apparent attempts by Pitzer College to stop the display of the wall. When a group of SJP members met with the Pitzer Dean of Students about their plan to display the apartheid wall, the Dean told them he was concerned someone may attempt to damage the wall or “burn it down.” He told them that someone would inevitably submit a formal complaint about the wall being ‘discriminatory.’ He also told SJP they would need approval from the Campus Aesthetics Committee. SJP’s proposal was rejected without formal explanation.

On Friday March 27, Pitzer warned SJP that their plans to proceed with the mock wall would be in blatant defiance of College policy. This is despite the Campus Demonstration’s policy statementthat Pitzer “respects the rights of free speech and peaceful assembly and supports their exercise.”

“We hope Pitzer College thinks twice before violating its own policies to censor SJP’s advocacy for Palestinian rights,” said Liz Jackson, staff attorney with Palestine Solidarity Legal Support, whowrote to Pitzer officials Monday. “As it should, Pitzer claims to embrace a compelling interest in unfettered inquiry and the collective search for knowledge. Under California law, there can be no ‘Palestine exception’ to this policy. The accusation that displaying a mock Israeli apartheid wall would target Jewish students is an attempt to divert the conversation away from the human rights policy issues SJP is attempting to raise; SJP’s activity targets the Israeli state, not any individual. In response to recent incidents of deplorable anti-Semitic yik yak comments on campus, SJP emphasizes, “As a group advocating for equality, universal human rights, and collective liberation, SJP strongly condemns any form of oppression on the basis of race, gender identity, sexual orientation, religious affiliation, national origin, or disability,” explains Solomon, “We strongly condemn any form of anti-Semitism on campus.”

Motivated by the same opposition to racism, SJP will display the mock Israeli apartheid wall, in the hopes of educating the Pitzer campus about the Israeli system of race-based separation and subjugation of Palestinians. “If you agree with SJP, and the International Court of Justice, that an apartheid wall violates basic human rights, we invite you to join Pitzer SJP in dismantling the wall at the end the day,” said Solomon.

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Conflict Kitchen controversy displays fear of facing Palestinian reality

A local perspective on the effort to shut down a restaurant that serves up Palestinian food and perspectives. By Ella Mason, Jewish Voice for Peace Pittsburgh

When you think about the sites that play a role in the Israel/Palestine conflict, a few places may come to mind: 
Oslo, Egypt, Camp David. . . but probably not Pittsburgh.  Yet this
 small post-industrial town has been embroiled in a 
controversy that has made headlines around the world.

It all begins with the story of the Conflict Kitchen, an innovative art project created by Carnegie Mellon University art professor Jon
 Rubin.  The Conflict Kitchen is a takeout restaurant that only serves 
food from countries with whom the United States is in some type of 
conflict.  Since its opening in 2010 it has served food from 
Afghanistan, North Korea, Venezuela, Iran, Cuba, and Colombia.
 Alongside food, the Kitchen produces written educational works:
 usually interviews with people from the country in question about
 their perspectives on food, dating, aging, school, and politics.
The Kitchen sees its mission as bringing Americans a deeper
 understanding of the people and culture(s) of these nations we hear 
about primarily as headline abstractions.

At the end of September the Conflict Kitchen opened their newest 
installment of the project; a Palestinian takeout restaurant.  Some
argued that Palestine was a strange choice for the Kitchen. They ask: Is the
 U.S. really at conflict with Palestine? The US gives roughly four billion dollars
 of aid (much of it military) to Israel, the nation actively at war 
with/occupying Palestine. Furthermore, the U.S.’s continuing blockage in the U.N. of Palestinian statehood helps to maintain what has become the status quo of occupation. 

In this context the U.S. could certainly be seen as having a conflict with 
Palestine, or at the very least, as being fundamentally entangled in 
the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.photo 2

Pittsburgh has a very small Palestinian population, so as a local
 Jewish artist with a great deal of interest in the ongoing conflict I 
was thrilled to hear that the Conflict Kitchen was taking on Palestine 
and giving these often-silenced voices a platform to be heard in 
Pittsburgh. 

Unfortunately, even before the Palestinian iteration
 opened, the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh (JFGP) made 
efforts to have the restaurant shut down.  Gregg Roman, a former
 Israeli soldier and current director of Jewish Community Relations for 
the Federation, attempted to strong arm the University of
 Pittsburgh’s Honors College (one of the project’s sponsors) into
 canceling the September 30th kickoff event.

When that didn’t work, he 
pressured them to add him to a panel on Palestinian culture (how he 
attempted to justify this, being neither a Palestinian nor an academic 
nor a cultural worker I do not know).  When this tactic also failed, 
Roman came to the event with an organized group of right-wing 
Israelis, who used their time to participate by claiming that
 Palestinians living in Israel face no discrimination there. 

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