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Palestinian, Israeli student groups share days of protest

In the wake of protests from pro-Israel student organizations Tuesday, ASU’s Students for Justice in Palestine took down its “Apartheid Wall.”

For the past three years, SJP has constructed a mock wall representing of the security barrier separating Israeli and Palestinian territories.

The wall, decorated with photos and claims, is usually displayed on Hayden Lawn for two days and is meant to educate passersby about the conflict. This year, the wall only stood for a single day.

There are usually individuals who argue with SJP members at the mock wall, but this is the first year that pro-Israel campus groups have collaborated in a formal protest, said sustainability freshman Maya Kraidman, a member of Sun Devils for Israel.

While the pro-Israel groups wanted to be present when the wall was up, SJP took it down so that pro-Israel groups could have their own day of protest, said civil engineering senior Lina Bearat, president of ASU’s SJP branch and daughter of Palestinian immigrants.

SJP did not intend for the wall to create conflict, but spread facts about how Palestinians are suffering, Bearat said.

“I want people to realize there is another side of the conflict,” Bearat said. “We want peace, but we’re the ones suffering.”

Bearat travels to Palestine every summer and has experienced discrimination during her visits. Bearat has had guns pointed at her face by Israeli soldiers and has seen Israeli settlements built on her family’s land, she said.

“I think it’s important that ASU students just look up the facts,” Bearat said, accusing the media and pro-Israel groups of brainwashing the public.

Pro-Israel groups were not present on the wall’s first day on Hayden Lawn as SJP didn’t announce which day it would be constructed, said materials science and engineering graduate student Sivan Rose Markowitz, a member of Chabad at ASU, an organization promoting Jewish philosophy.

The protestors wanted to create a place on campus where people could go to hear another side of the issue, even though the wall was no longer there to see, she said.

Markowitz lived in Israel for about five years and her entire family is Israeli. It is not the war zone that SJP portrays it as, Markowitz said.

Last summer Markowitz witnessed a Muslim girl and Israeli soldier talking on the bus in Israel, she said, noting that most of the time Israel is peaceful.

The images and information posted each year on the wall incorrectly portray Israel as a violent, ugly place, Markowitz said.

“It’s shocking to me because peace is possible,” she said.

Israel’s opponents ignore the country’s democratic government that wishes to preserve the states around it, Markowitz said.

“Our whole thing is just to provide information,” Markowitz said. “Israel is the only Jewish state, and because it has so many enemies, it’s important we really come together.”

Psychology and family and human development junior Gabe Wood-Isenberg, a member of both Sun Devils for Israel and Chabad at ASU, sent a Facebook invitation to more than 600 people asking them to attend the protest. At about noon Tuesday, there were roughly 20 protesters.

“It’s pretty easy to want to avoid the whole thing altogether,” Wood-Isenberg said. “The goal is to show there is a pro-Israel presence on campus and both sides of the issue.”

The decades-long conflict stems from two nationalities trying to stake claim to one piece of territory, said Rabbi Barton Lee, director of Hillel at ASU.

In an attempt to solve the issue of displaced Jews after World War II, the United Nations passed a partition plan for Palestine in 1947. The plan declared the country, formerly known as Palestine, a Jewish state and was rejected by some in the Arab community.

The issue is not that Israel wants to segregate Palestinians, Lee said.

SJP’s “Apartheid Wall” draws parallels between the segregation of blacks and whites in South Africa and the separation of Palestinians and Israelis.

Lee said the situation is unlike apartheid, which was based on race.

“In every measure of what apartheid was in South Africa, the situation in Israel is entirely different,” he said.

Lee said the issue would disappear if borders are agreed to and Palestinians recognize Israel as a state.

SJP and ASU’s pro-Israel groups claim they are not against Israelis or Palestinians.

“Our goal is not to belittle,” said kinesiology junior Aaron Ivanhoe, a member of Sun Devils for Israel. “We’re simply out there to give both sides of the issue.”

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