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Take pride in being Palestinian at University

I write this not as a representative of BAKA: Students United for Middle Eastern Justice but as a 5th year University undergraduate student of Palestinian heritage, Muslim faith and in solidarity with the human struggle.

As part of the first ever Palestine Awareness Week on Feb. 28, March 1 and March 2, respectively, BAKA screened "Occupation 101," hosted renowned writer Max Blumenthal and then brought a mock 16-foot high apartheid wall to Brower Commons on the College Avenue campus so it could be signed by University student activists. Apart from BAKA's events, the University's chapter of the Palestine Children's Relief Fund and the Center for Middle Eastern Studies had their own events in appreciation of Palestinian culture. In short, this has been one of the most enjoyable weeks — and as an organizer, also one of the most stressful — of my college career.

But I do not feel the pain anymore. We are all likely to incur some uncomfortable backlash when we speak truth to power. In the face of the hateful, racist and traumatic verbal attacks some of BAKA's members encountered last week, I would like to thank the Dean of Students for the College Avenue campus Timothy Grimm, the Student Activities Center, members of the administration, the student centers and the Office of Student Involvement for giving their students the opportunity to spread Palestine awareness.

Last week's events provided an accurate look into the so-called "conflict" in Israel-Palestine. In my educated opinion, a more precise explanation for the situation, rather than simply the word "conflict," is that the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) have for the last 62 years implemented an illegal military occupation of Palestinian land based on a fundamentally flawed and racist principle: that non-Jewish Arabs are an innately violent threat to the existence of a Jewish state, thereby giving the Israeli government the right to collectively punish Muslim, Christian, Druze and atheist Palestinians alike, as well as dissenting Jews, for their beliefs and born identities. It should not be forgotten that even Palestinians living within the Israeli borders determined in 1948 are discriminated against through Jewish-only property laws, de facto employment opportunities, segregated school systems and the inability to sound an effective political voice in the Knesset, the legislative branch of the Israeli government. So I ask the reader, where is the "conflict?" If the state of Israel is this unjust, shouldn't everyone with a conscience be non-violently opposing the IDF, like the villagers in Budrus, Bil'in and East Jerusalem constantly are?

I do not intend to outline the entire issue here. What I do want is to express my utmost gratitude to this University for the opportunity to exercise my freedom of speech, and for BAKA's outstanding supporters, too, for making their voices heard. I have never been prouder to be a Palestinian in all my life than during the past year on this campus. My friends and allies have helped uphold truth, strength and dignity. One day the refugees in the occupied territories and diaspora will make their Aliyah. One day soon Afghans, Iraqis, queers, blacks, women, the poor, disabled and forgotten will rejoice together with the Palestinians.

If there is anything that the revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya have taught us is that there is no silencing those who have been oppressed! We, the disgruntled masses, will continue to cry out until every last drop of salt water, sweat, tears and blood have dropped. And until that day comes when we quell oppression in all of its forms — whether it is homophobia, misogyny or racism — I will keep my fist clenched in solidarity, interwoven with my lover's hand and fingers. With this weekend being the sentencing of the University of California Irvine 11 — the 11 students unjustly arrested for protesting Israeli Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren by disrupting his speech — the call for solidarity could not come any sooner. If Palestine is occupied then the whole world is occupied. But for now, until that occupation ends and until Palestine is free I am happy to call the University my home.

Sami Jitan is a School of Arts and Sciences senior majoring in anthropology. He is the events coordinator for BAKA: Students United for Middle Eastern Justice.

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