Israeli Apartheid Week a Smashing Success

From March 8th to March 12th, SDS at UH hosted a week of events in solidarity with Palestinian struggle as part of Israeli Apartheid Week. We owe a huge debt of gratitude to the numerous groups and individuals that helped make this week of events possible, and thank everyone who participated in our panels and demonstrations as well as attended the events and spoke with us. This list will be incomplete, but we want to thank our Panelists; Adam, Sally, Busi, Nick, Brother Ester, and Gretta, as well as David at South Park Annex, Michelle in Industrial Design, Palestinians for Peace and Democracy, IEC Islamic Education Center, Amnesty International at UH (for being totally cool about us stealing their room by accident) and the dozens of students who helped us paint border walls, hand out fliers and attended our events. We bit off a lot with this week of events and feel like it came off very well, thanks to all of y’all!

This post starts with a recap of what we did with links to our documentation, and is followed by the press coverage that we received.

Here is a recap of what we did:

Monday

Sally Presenting

We hosted a Sally went to the west bank with the Middle East Fellowship’s Palestine Summer Encounter. Sally spoke in particular about the situation in Hebron, where a small group of far right Israeli settlers have been able to paralyze social life and create an intense IDF military presence. Adam spoke about going to Israel on a Birthright Israel trip, and going to a protest in the village of Jayyous against the Apartheid Wall, with the Israeli group Anarchists Against the Wall.

Adam Presenting

We opened this event and all of our panels by reading a statement from the BNC (Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee) in support of the Israeli Apartheid Week events being held around the world.

Due to technical dificulties, we lost the audio from Sally’s talk (Sorry Sally!!), but Adam’s talk is online here.

Tuesday

Front side of our apartheid wall

From 11am to 2pm on March 9th, SDS at UH set up a “border wall” in the middle of Butler Plaza, in front of the MD Anderson library in the center of the University of Houston campus. The wall had art, information and really cool maps that presented information about the occupation of the Palestinian West Bank and US military aid to Israel.

Street Theater Against the Occupation

We handed out a flier with information about the wall being built in the west bank that is confiscating Palestinian land and dividing communities. We also staged some street theater stopping folks on their way to the library, and when they lacked the proper permits to visit the library, detaining them in front of the wall, this gained a lot of attention, and we got in a lot of conversations. We talked to folks that agreed with us 100%, folks who thought we were wrong and stupid, folks who had no idea about what was happening with the conflict, folks who were veterans of the Israeli Defense Forces, and folks who had a lot of misconceptions about the conflict based on what they had heard about the conflict from TV.

We feel that this event was very successful in raising awareness and discussions about Israel’s oppressive, apartheid policies and presenting our position and information to the UH audience. At least hundreds, more likely multiple thousands of people saw the wall that we constructed in the center of campus during the most busy part of the week. It clearly created a buzz on campus that people continued to talk about during the week. Houston Indymedia Coverage of the Border Wall and Street Theater

Wednesday

Panel on South African Apartheid

On Wednesday we hosted a Panel on Anti-Apartheid Movement in Houston in Solidarity with the people of South Africa, which addressed parallels with the struggle against Israel’s apartheid policies against Palestinians. Speakers included (from right to left) Brother Ester King, alumni of Texas Southern University, veteran of Organization for Black Student Unity and Afro Americans for Black Liberation and currently a board member of Palestinians for Peace and Democracy, Busi Peters, alumni of the University of Houston, founder of Women Healing and Empowering Women (WHEW) and organizer with Creative Women Unite and Nick Cooper, Alumni of Rice University and organizer with Houston Indymedia and Food Not Bombs.


The full panel was recorded and is online here.

Thursday

Greta Berlin of Free Gaza Movement

On Thursday March 11th, we hosted Gretta Berlin of the Free Gaza Movement spoke about their efforts to break the siege of Gaza by sending aid by boats from Cyprus, and screened the film To Shoot an Elephant, a documentary made by Spanish activists during “Operation Cast Lead” Israels war on the civilian population of Gaza where more than 1,400 people were killed. Houston Indymedia Coverage of all our Panels

Friday

Boycott Caterpillar

On Friday March 12th, SDS and our friends and allies went to the Caterpillar sales facility on the Northwest Freeway. This was our concluding event and we feel like we ended on a strong note. We protested, holding signs on the feeder road of 1960 during rush hour traffic, from 3:30, until a little after 5, as the workers of Caterpillar left, reading our signs and listening to our chants.

We chanted “Caterpillar you cant hide, you’re constructing apartheid” “Caterpillar – Human Killer” and “Demolition isn’t right, we wont die without a fight.” Most drivers seemed perplexed by the protest, but we got dozens of honks, one man actually parked in a lot hundreds of feet away and walked down the sidewalk to thank us for protesting against Caterpillar and to support justice for Palestinians.

Caterpillar Group Photo

We concluded the event by gathering and talking about Rachel Corrie, an American peace activist who was crushed to death by an Caterpillar bulldozer being driven by an Israeli soldier while trying to prevent a house demolition in the Gaza Strip. This upcoming Tuesday March 16th is the seven year anniversary of her death, and we read some of her writings aloud. We concluded by thanking everyone for coming, and having a victory dinner at a nearby Denny’s.

Caterpillar, Inc. continues to sell its D9 and D10 bulldozers to Israel where they are militarized and used to bulldoze homes, uproot olive trees, build the Apartheid Wall, and kill civilians. In addition to constituting violations of international law, of the US Arms Export Control Act and of its own corporate code of conduct, Caterpillar is playing a a special role in strengthening Israeli Apartheid and perpetuating injustice against Palestinians. [Flier on Caterpillar from US Campaign to End the Occupation (PDF)] Houston Indymedia Coverage of the Caterpillar Protest

Press Coverage

Coverage from the Daily Cougar:

“Last year, more than 40 cities participated in Israeli Apartheid Week, and this week, Students for a Democratic Society of UH are observing it in Houston.

Israel was established as a sovereign state in 1948, after the holocaust and World War II. As a result, Palestinians were forced to move out of their homes and into the West Bank and Gaza regions. This attracted much international attention, and the conflict is still going on today.

The week-long SDS events have included lectures, demonstrations and film screenings aimed at raising awareness about Israel’s controversial policies toward Palestinians and to gather support for the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign.”
Read Full Article

Daily Cougar Opinion:
Apartheid doesn’t categorize Israel A critique that we think is pretty off base
Palestinians facing real issues in Israel A rebuttal by an SDSer

Dana and Rob from SDS were on the Arab Voices Radio Show on KPFT 90.1fm Audio Here (we are in the second half)

Interesting hella critical coverage from the Jewish Herald Voice Newspaper:
From the Jewish Herald Voice
Houston’s largest institution of higher learning is the latest campus to be targeted by the anti-Israel propaganda campaign, “Israel Apartheid Week.”

On March 9, University of Houston students erected a mock-Israeli “apartheid wall” on Butler Plaza, in front of the central campus’ main library, during peak midday traffic time. The plywood display was scrawled with messages reading: “Boycott, Divest, Sanction”; “Right of Return”; and “Refugee of My Own Land.” The display also featured graphics showing maps, military aircraft, weapons and bloody handprints. Half-a-dozen participants approached passers-by with fliers and conversation.

Tuesday’s demonstration was part of a weeklong series of IAW programs at and through UH, planned for March 8 to 12. These programs, which also included planned lectures, a film screening and protest – all were organized by the UH chapter of Students for a Democratic Society.
Read Full Article

Jewish Herald Voice Followup:
Campus experts evaluate local IAW-responses

One response to “Israeli Apartheid Week a Smashing Success

  1. Pingback: Gearing up for May 1st Immigrant Rights March « Students for a Democratic Society at the University of Houston

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