The Omicron Xi chapter of Delta Sigma Theta (DST) hosted its annual fall symposium on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict last night.
“Save The Children of Abraham” aimed to educate the community on the issue, according to the sorority’s Social Action Chair Sally Adnan.
“I want people to know where our money is going and how the United States is involved,” Adnan said. “People should know that a lot of people are dying.”
The event opened with a video showing oppressed populations from all over the world. Violent beatings and shootings from places such as Ireland, the United States and the “Holy Land” flashed across the screen during the short video.
DST members, who were all dressed in red, stood at the front of the room and recited information and statistics to the audience.
“Fact: What happened in 1948 was an ethnic war,” one member said, and another added, “Fact: At the end of the war ... over 700,000 Palestinians were displaced.”
Board Member of Interfaith Peace Builders Alta Schwartz said it is important not to focus solely on the negative aspects of the conflict.
“I am here to talk about what you can do. I am going to talk about the positive, the normal things,” Schwartz said. “I want to talk about the good, the bad and the possible.”
The controversy is not an easy one to deal with, she said.
“We’re not going to just stand here, sing ‘Kumbaya,’ hold hands, and then go home,” Schwartz said. “It is very difficult for the Jews and Palestinians to communicate; you have a generation that is raised to see the other side in a certain way: with a gun in between each other.”
She told students that whether or not they already had their opinions and ideas on the issue, it’s important to understand the other side, otherwise it is impossible to make progress.
Schwartz said that while only violence makes its way into the media, there are non-violent protests as well. She put up images of women in downtown Jerusalem with signs saying, “Stop the Occupation” and graffiti on the wall between Palestinian and Israeli territory that read, “CTRL+ALT+DELETE.”
Rana Shabb, assistant program coordinator for Israel and Palestine at The Carter Center focused on the internal Palestinian struggle in her speech.
“The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been going on for a while, but the internal Palestinian conflict is fairly new,” she said of the hostility between the Hamas and the Fatah.
These groups are two de facto governments who rule two major areas, Shabb said, with the Hamas in Gaza and the Fatah on the West Bank.
The Carter Center sends staff to go out and meet with civilians and leaders of the Fatah, Hamas and Hezbollah in order to reach all sides. The Center, she said, wavers between high-profile outreach through former President Jimmy Carter’s efforts as well as low-profile activity at a more local level.
Reverend Fahed Abu-Akel, President of the Union of the Palestinian Medical Relief Committees, said that it is important to remember all the peoples involved in the conflict.
“In the United States, when you think of Arabs, you think of Muslims. When you think of Israel, you think of the Jews,” he said.
The media often focuses too much on the Israeli side of the issue, according to Abu-Akel.
“There is nothing in the United States that will educate you on the Palestinian narrative,” he said.
According to Abu-Akel, Palestinians are facing adversity.
“Palestinians are trying to get back 22 percent of the original Palestine. It’s as if I came in, took your house and now you’re negotiating to get back your kitchen,” he said. “The only salvation for the Palestinians is international law.”
The split between the two groups has gotten so severe, he said, that in some places, members of one group cannot travel further than six miles without getting into rival territory.
“You cannot go from Bethlehem to Jerusalem,” Abu-Akel said and joked, “That’s like saying you can’t go from Emory to Spelman.”
Adnan said that the sorority decided to present this conflict this year because while it is a popular topic, not a lot of students know about it. She said that she felt like it was a good opportunity to bring awareness to the student body.
Every year, DST holds events covering different international issues. In the past, the sorority has held symposiums on global and environmental issues and on the war in Darfur.
While her sorority does not advocate for one side of the issue, Adnan said that it supports justice and peace.
By coming to the symposium and being open to understanding, she said that students had taken the first step in making a difference.
“I really, really hope that people understand how much of a bubble we live in the United States. We are so unaware of what is going on in Israel,” Adnan said. “I feel like the rest of the world is panicking, and we are not.”
— Asst. News Editor Molly Davis contributed reporting.
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