Faculty participate in Israeli Apartheid Week panel

Tufts professors Souhad Zendah and Thomas Abowd discussed their perspectives on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict last night at Faculty Perspectives on Gaza and Jerusalem, the fifth event hosted by Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) during Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW). 

The two professors addressed the conflict from strikingly different angles, covering not only the legal and political implications of occupation but also the effects that occupation has on families and personal lives.

Abowd, a lecturer in Arabic culture, asked the audience to think about the term “apartheid” and how it applies to cases far beyond Israeli occupation.

“We are going to concentrate on what is routinely neglected and silenced. We have apartheid right here on this campus, and we have apartheid right here in this city,” Abowd said.

He explained that the United States has perpetuated apartheid – in the sense of segregation – since the nation’s inception. Though its legal methods for enforcing segregation have changed over the years, the outcome is still the same, he said.

According to Abowd, the United States is also extremely implicated in systems of segregation enforced in Israel. A significant amount of U.S. tax dollars are given to Israel, a state that has maintained one of the longest periods of occupation, he said. He explained this occupation through the lens of colonialism.

“What, in my view, comprises the structure of a colonial enterprise are two linked and important sets of policies,” Abowd said. “The policy of expansion and removal, and the twin policy of exclusion … You can see that on this continent and you can see that under Israeli authority.”

Another significant factor in Israeli colonialism, according to Abowd, is racism. Israel racially divides its population by restricting who is allowed to own land in which areas, and by physically cutting off Palestinians from Israelis with walls and electrified fences, he said.

“It’s intended to replace one people with another and eliminate the people who are already there,” Abowd said. “Israel has historically … relied on Palestinian labor, now not so much anymore, and the design was never to exploit the labor but just to supplant the population.”

Abowd also emphasized the idea that Jerusalem is an example of where Israel’s policy of expansion plays out. He showed maps that illustrated the changing boundaries of Jerusalem over the years, which showed that while the actual size of Jerusalem grew, it did so in such a way that excluded Palestinian communities.

Even within the original boundaries of Jerusalem, Palestinian communities were destroyed to provide more space for Jewish worship, Abowd said. He gave the example of the Moroccan quarter, a Palestinian community that was destroyed in order to increase space bordering the Western Wall, a Jewish religious landmark.

“This is about space but it’s also about race,” Abowd said. “It’s about racial politics and racialized vision. There is no more symbolic place than Jerusalem, where … the Kotel or Western Wall, the Dome of the Rock and the site where Christians believe Jesus was crucified and buried [are].”

Arabic Language Lecturer Zendah focused on her personal story as a Palestinian refugee. She recalled her experience leaving Gaza in 1999 in order to go to university in Ramallah.

She described her experience of shock and terror as she crossed through the Erez checkpoint into Israel. There were gates, microphones, security cameras, sniper towers and visible automatic machine guns all over the checkpoint, she said. There were several metal detectors and a mile-long tunnel that she had to get through before she could continue her journey to the West Bank, she continued.

After university, she was able to leave the West Bank through Jordan in order to come to the United States, where she attended Tulsa Community College and then the University of Tulsa, she explained.

As a result of the stringent laws Israel enforces on Palestinian movement, Zendah said her relationship with her family has become complicated. Those who live in the West Bank and hold West Bank identification are not allowed to travel to Gaza and vice versa, she explained.

Abowd reinforced the idea that Palestinians are controlled and restricted by Israeli governing. He said he felt that the power exerted by Israelis was more than political; it was also cultural.

“You can see very clearly that colonialism is not just about sheer power dominance and depth,” Abowd said. “It is a cultural project of control, and it has always been in every context. Colonial dominance is solidified through ideologies … and mythologies through Bible stories or the interpretations of sacred texts.”


7 Responses

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  1. Disappointed
    Mar 06, 2015 - 12:27 AM

    This is terribly biased. There’s only one side of the story being presented in this article, and you didn’t go out of your way to search for any contrary opinions. This reads more like an op-ed, and the Daily should be above that.

    • this is reporting
      Mar 06, 2015 - 02:53 AM

      this is an article simply about an event that occurred. you could have shown up to the event and voiced your opinion and that would have been in the article. but you didn’t

      • george
        Mar 06, 2015 - 02:52 PM

        I agree it is just a news article. However, there were seven articles with gave vent to huge amounts of negativity about Israel in The Tufts Daily in the past 8 days:

        ‘Into the home and into the mind,’
        “Questioning our Birthright”
        “Bibi’ oneway street”
        “Teaching life. . “
        “The oppressed learn.”
        “Tufts Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) is hosting its fourth annual. . .”
        “Faculty participate in Israeli Apartheid Week . .”

        How many negative articles about anything other than campus rape has the Daily published? In other words, why is this article worthy of posting, given the obsessive demonization exhibited by this supposed vehicle for discussing events at Tufts? Enough is enough, we get it. The existence of Israel is an insult to editors and writers at the Daily. By now we understand this.

        • and?
          Mar 07, 2015 - 04:24 AM

          right and 5 of those were opinion pieces. you can submit an opinion piece supporting israel and the daily will publish it. FOI or TAIA can have an event supporting israel and the daily will report on it. thats how the news works.

          • George
            Mar 07, 2015 - 03:30 PM

            In other words, the loudest voice gets the most press. No editorial decisions to be made. Regarding events supporting Israel, Ari Shavit spoke on Jan.21, arguably somewhat better known than the lecturers covered in this article (NY Times Bestseller). Where was the article? I can’t find it. Guess it must be an editorial decision.

          • former daily staff
            Mar 09, 2015 - 10:51 AM

            Anyone who submits an opinion piece, as pointed out, can get their voice published, regardless of how “loud” they are. If people want to write about events supporting Israel, there is nothing stopping them and certainly no one in the opinion section who would stop them from publishing those opinions, as long as they abide by the rules (not slanderous, clearly expressing an opinion, etc.). As for your other point, the Daily didn’t go daily until January 25, so there was no purposeful exclusion as you suggest.

          • George
            Mar 10, 2015 - 11:49 PM

            I stand corrected. . . “he who yells the _most_ gets the most press.” A policy that allows the journalistic enterprise to be hijacked, just the same.

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