Emory Students for Justice in Palestine (ESJP) hosted an expo in the Emory Student Center on April 15  to educate attendees about the last 75 years of Palestine’s history. April 15 marked the one-year anniversary of the civil war in Sudan, which ESJP highlighted in an Instagram post advertising the event.

ESJP member Elijah Brawner (26T) stated that the Israeli government is benefitting from the current civil war by selling weapons to the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), a paramilitary group in Sudan that was reported to be using Israeli artillery in 2023. 

At the ESJP event, attendees learned about the broader conflict in the Middle East through posters that gave brief descriptions of events in history, such as the Balfour Declaration, the Second Intifada, the wall between Gaza and Israel and the Sykes-Picot Agreement.

An attendee reads an educational poster board on Palestine. (Hannah Xu/Staff Photographer)

Brawner said ESJP hosted the event after concern arose over people’s knowledge about the conflict in Gaza.

“Maybe people have heard about Gaza, but they haven’t heard about the 1917 Balfour Declaration,” Brawner said.

Two ESJP members who organized the event and requested to remain anonymous due to safety concerns stated that a similar event at Roswell Community Masjid, a mosque in Roswell, Ga., inspired them to host the expo for the Emory University community.

“We’ve been wanting to do a history event since the last two years, but due to planning and that kind of thing, it never worked out,” one of the organizers said. “Just seeing their idea … it just spurred us to create our own.”

The other organizer stated that the current conflict in the Palestinian territories has been going on for decades, not just since Oct. 7, 2023. They said that parts of the conflict “are really quite simple” and have been caused by dispossession, racism and oppression. 

Rev. Fahed Abu-Akel, the founder and executive director of the Atlanta Ministry with International Students Peachtree Presbyterian Church, gave a speech at the event. He discussed his journey as a Palestinian immigrant and criticized Zionism as a “settler colonial ideology.” Abu-Akel was born to Christian Palestinian parents in 1944, four years before the foundation of Israel, in Kafr Yasif, a town now located in Israel.

Having immigrated from Israel to the United States in 1966, Abu-Akel spoke about the differences in his rights as a Palestinian in both countries — he remembered having the freedom to travel from Florida to Georgia and Tennessee after moving to the U.S. 

“That was the most freeing experience of my life,” Abu-Akel said. 

Abu-Akel stated that the successful creation of Israel can be attributed to “Christian Zionism,” which refers to Christian support of Jews returning to their biblical homeland in Israel. The movement has been growing recently, according to Abu-Akel. He said that Christian Zionists want to fulfill God’s promise by creating the State of Israel and killing Palestinians. 

Israel’s creation can also be attributed to the Holocaust, Abu-Akel said.

“When you take generals that went to the death camps and saved some Jews, you created passion in the military about the Jewish situation,” Abu-Akel said. “So to start a Jewish state, it was easy to do.”

Abu-Akel went on to state that there needs to be a “free Palestine,” not just a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war. In response to an audience question about expanding knowledge on the conflict in Gaza, Abu-Akel stated that people must use social media to share their stories. 

Brawner said that the event went well.

“Reverend Fahed is always a delight to hear speak,” Brawner said. 

An attendee who requested to remain anonymous due to safety concerns said that they came to the expo to educate themselves on the history of the Israel-Palestine conflict.

“It was nice to come here and also see firsthand people talking about their experiences and their families,” the attendee said. “It’s a very real issue.”

News Editor Jack Rutherford (27C) and Politics Desk Ayla Khan (23Ox, 25C) contributed to reporting.

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Spencer Friedland (26C) is from Long Island, New York and is the Emory Wheel's Managing News Editor. He is a Philosophy, Politics and Law major and has a secondary major in Film. Spencer is also a part of the Franklin Fellows program at Emory.