Photo Courtesy of Flickr Creative Common: Andrew Stawarz

Photo Courtesy of Flickr Creative Common: Andrew Stawarz

Dear Members of the Emory Community,

We are writing collectively as Emory Students for Justice in Palestine (ESJP). We appreciate Dean Ajay Nair’s statement regarding free speech. We are writing to clarify some of our values.

We are nonviolent, student activists. On Sunday, Feb. 22, we built a display, a model of the Apartheid Wall that runs through the West Bank to draw attention to the walling-off of many Palestinians from their families, jobs, schools, hospitals and other crucial aspects of daily life. On this wall, we attached educational materials about the general situation in Israel and Palestine, international law as is applicable to the Apartheid Wall and statements about our group including that we “oppose all forms of oppression (including anti-Arab racism, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia).” Our goal is to increase awareness of the violations of Palestinians’ human and civil rights, Israel’s violations of international human rights law and the United States’ complicity in these violations. We hope that by raising awareness, we can increase support for the U.S. and Israel to move towards more humane policies and practices towards Palestinians.

The wall we built is a physical expression of our speech. It originally contained facts, quotes and pictures regarding what the United Nations (UN) defines as apartheid. While this is our understanding of the Palestinian reality, we also realize others have been exposed to a different understanding. In doing so, we also accept the freedom of speech for those who disagree. The Apartheid Wall is a sensitive subject for Israelis and Palestinians alike and we ask for restraint from expressions of physical and verbal violence.

We are disappointed that at least two individuals (during two separate incidents) defaced and destroyed what we created, rather than engage with us about their concerns. Our contact information was located on the wall along with an invitation to inquire about the issue. In the past, Emory has worked to facilitate dialogue about differing facts and ideologies. We hope that the Emory community will again engage with us.

As we discuss the conditions of Palestinians, we also acknowledge the history of anti-Semitic discrimination, and we distinguish between what some call hate speech and criticism. Members of ESJP are from a diverse background that includes an Israeli Jew and a Palestinian. We have diverse political ideas but agree that we cannot remain silently complicit as the State of Israel, with financial and material support from the United States, continues to violate the human rights of the Palestinian people as outlined in international law, including the Fourth Geneva Convention and the Rome Statute.

As we continue to use the name Apartheid Wall, it is important to understand why we call it as such. In 1974, the UN held the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid, which defines apartheid in Article II (c) as:
“Any legislative measures and other measures calculated to prevent a racial group or groups from participation in the political, social, economic and cultural life of the country and the deliberate creation of conditions preventing the full development of such a group or groups, in particular by denying to members of a racial group or groups basic human rights and freedoms, including the right to work, the right to form recognized trade unions, the right to education, the right to leave and to return to their country, the right to a nationality, the right to freedom of movement and residence, the right to freedom of opinion and expression, and the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.”

While some maintain that Israel does not engage in such acts, a glance at Israeli and Palestinian identification papers will quickly find that Palestinian IDs are color coded for quick distinction. The purpose of this system is to allow guards to quickly identify Palestinians in order to prohibit their travel.  But this is only one example of Israeli policies that makes clear distinctions based on which side of the Apartheid Wall a person lives on.

We invite all members of the Emory community to engage with us from within a framework of social justice and international law as we move forward and discuss what steps we can take from within the United States to ensure that the human rights of all people in Israel and Palestine are defended.

Emory Students for Justice in Palestine

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The Emory Wheel was founded in 1919 and is currently the only independent, student-run newspaper of Emory University. The Wheel publishes weekly on Wednesdays during the academic year, except during University holidays and scheduled publication intermissions.

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