Members of Tufts Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) disrupted “Taste of Israel,” an annual event hosted by Friends of Israel (FOI) that is intended to introduce students to Israeli culture and food, in the Carmichael Hall lounge last Thursday.
Foods such as falafel, hummus, fresh produce and waffles were spread out on five tables at the event. Students in SJP, an international college student organization that supports the Palestinian people and their right to self-determination, were present at the event to protest the appropriation of Palestinian food as part of Israeli culture, according to SJP member Nic Serhan, a junior.
Claudia Aliff, another SJP member, explained that the appropriation of food is a large part of the oppression of Palestinians.
At approximately 6:20 p.m., 20 minutes after the event began, SJP members walked into the Carmichael lounge with signs that read “Taste of Israeli Occupation” and “Don’t dip into apartheid,” among other phrases.
“The disruption of this event is the purpose,” Aliff, a junior, said.
Students from SJP distributed flyers titled “Israeli Culture is not Apolitical!” to people at the event, as well as chocolates whose wrappers contained facts about Israel.
“Thanks to the Taste of Israeli Blockades, Palestinian imports in Gaza have been heavily restricted and exports barred. Israeli companies profit from a monopoly on the supply of goods to Gaza, making $375 [million] in 2012,” one of the wrappers read.
SJP member Leah Muskin-Pierret said that she felt distaste for the “pain-free narrative told by Hillel and other Jewish organizations on campus.”
“FOI can’t expect to put on [a] subtly political event without a challenging opinion,” Muskin-Pierret, a senior, said.
According to FOI vice president Itamar Ben Aharon, a sophomore, FOI is an apolitical student organization that aims to “celebrate Israel beyond the conflict and endorse peace between a secure Israel and a Palestinian state.”
FOI’s co-president, Aviva Weinstein, added that the event tried not to be political and expressed disappointment with SJP‘s organizing at the event.
“It’s disappointing that this is how student groups from the same university interact with each other,” Weinstein, a junior, said. “This event was supposed to be kept apolitical and is a way to show the plurality of cultures.”
“Taste of Israel” included a “Plurality” table as part of the event, which detailed the Egyptian origin of falafel and the Arabic origins of hummus.
However, Serhan said that despite the acknowledgement of the non-Israeli origins of certain foods, there were still problems.
“[It’s] nice to see the distinction, but the language is still upsetting,” he said. “It is very violent, acknowledging and talking about one diaspora while completely ignoring the other [Palestinian].”
Sophomore Grant Steinhauer, who is unaffiliated with SJP or FOI, said he was frustrated with the way that SJP disrupted the event.
“SJP is using methods which delegitimize their cause,” Steinhauer said. “In order to talk about Palestinians, they shouldn’t hand out chocolate; it undermines what they stand for.”
FOI member Harrison Rubin said that he wished SJP would host their own event to express their opinions, instead of using the FOI event as their platform to do so.
“I wish SJP would do their own event, since Taste of Israel is dedicated to exploring cross-cultural food,” Rubin, a first-year, said.
Approximately one hour into the event, SJP members left the lounge, leaving behind posters and flyers, which were subsequently cleared out by Tufts University Police Department and members of FOI.
The event’s disruptions follow tensions between SJP and FOI on campus in the past over SJP‘s annual Israeli Apartheid Week and Tufts Hillel’s decision not to co-sponsor events with SJP, among others.
Correction: The previous version of this article misidentified Itamar Ben Aharon as the co-president of Friends of Israel, when he is in fact the vice president. Additionally, the original article incorrectly spelled Nic Serhan’s first name “Nick.” The article has been changed to reflect these corrections.