At the end of April, Stanford Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) hosted a series of events collectively known as Palestine Awareness Week that sought to increase education on campus surrounding the Israel-Palestine conflict.
“While action-oriented campaigns are important and an integral part of SJP’s mission, SJP’s mission also involves spreading awareness about the issue and providing a platform for individuals to engage with it,” explained SJP co-president Majd Quran ’19.
The weeklong program highlighted a wide range of events, including Palestinian dinners, cultural immersion exercises, film screenings, student panels and information sessions. Each event was free to attend and open to all members of the Stanford community.
“We weren’t asking people for anything more than their time and attention,” Quran said.
While Quran noted the event’s overall success, SJP received some backlash about the initiative, specifically surrounding a featured art project. The project, a wall erected in White Plaza, aimed to emulate the wall erected by Israel to separate the West Bank from the rest of Israel.
“We wanted to give people the opportunity to try and visualize [the wall], as well as express how it makes them feel through art,” Quran said. “While the wall was up, we did get inappropriate comments from individuals. People obviously did not understand what was going on and made very quick assumptions, leading to prejudiced comments.”
While the project’s criticism came from individuals walking by the wall in White Plaza, no student groups voiced any collective opinions in response.
Most events throughout Palestine Awareness Week were led by Stanford students, including many who were not previously involved in SJP. The group planned each event strategically to maximize accessibility to students who have limited experience discussing the issues at hand, Quran said.
“People came out to the event, engaged and asked questions,” Quran said. “Many who are not too invested in the Israel-Palestine conflict might feel awkward asking questions about it, and we wanted to give people the opportunity to ask questions.”
Asked about SJP’s reputation on campus following the week of events, Quran emphasized her hope that Palestine Awareness Week was able to help disseminate the group’s mission more clearly. She criticized an article in The Review that alleged a link between SJP and Hamas, saying the article “did not really seem to understand SJP’s mission on campus and nationally.”
“We hope that we were able to clarify our role as part of the student body,” Quran said. “We wanted to make sure that [connection to Hamas] is not the main presence we have here on campus,” he added.
In response, the author of the Review article, John Rice-Cameron ’20, maintained that SJP should release its funding history, condemn Hamas and “cease advocating policies that are designed to destroy Israel.”
To follow up, SJP plans to host a vigil on May 15 to honor Palestinian refugees displaced throughout the 1948 war with Israel.
Note: This article has been updated with response commentary from John Rice-Cameron.
Contact Vibhav Mariwala at vibhavm ‘at’ stanford.edu.