Student Israeli Apartheid Wall Torn Down, EPD Investigates

Emory Students for Justice in Palestine built a wall collage on Sunday. Photo by Hagar Elsayed / Photo Editor
Emory Students for Justice in Palestine built a wall collage on Sunday. Photo by Hagar Elsayed / Photo Editor

This article was updated with more information on Friday, Feb. 27 at 12:55 a.m., and its headline was changed from ‘Pro-Palestinian Student Wall Torn Down, EPD Investigates’ to ‘Student Israeli Apartheid Wall Torn Down, EPD Investigates.’

At least one perpetrator tore down and ripped apart a display constructed by Emory Students for Justice in Palestine (ESJP) on the Dobbs University Center (DUC) Terraces on Sunday night and Monday morning, according to ESJP members. The display, a wall that referred to Israel as an apartheid state, meant to raise awareness of Israel’s oppression of Palestinian people.

Senior Vice President and Dean of Campus Life Ajay Nair sent an all-Emory students email on Tuesday afternoon detailing the bias incident.

“The destruction of the display runs counter to our community’s commitment to debate and dialogue,” Nair wrote in the email. “Emory University unequivocally affirms that our community members have the right to open expression without interference.”

The Emory Police Department (EPD) is currently investigating the incident, and the Bias Incident Response Team and Open Expression Committee​ “became aware of the incident and responded immediately” after a member of ESJP submitted a Bias Incident Report on Monday, according to Matthew Garrett, the interim senior director of the Division of Campus Life.

Garrett added that Campus Life staff met with ESJP members on Monday morning “to discuss the incident [and] provide them with support, as well as outline options and next steps for their open expression display and bias incident reporting processes.”

A spokeswoman for the EPD declined to comment on the investigation.

College sophomore and ESJP President Jonathan Hussung, College senior Kolia Kroeger, College junior Dina Masri and two other members who asked not to be named due to the sensitivity of the issue, assembled the standing display from around 10:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday​, according to Hussung, who added that they returned to the DUC around 10:30 p.m. the same day to find the collage’s bare frame. (Hussung identifies as a non-binary gender and prefers the gender-neutral pronoun “they.”)

Hussung promptly called EPD, which then began its investigation, Hussung said.

The following morning, Hussung said they began stapling sheets of paper containing information previously displayed by the wall collage onto the frame around 12:50 p.m. on Monday. Hussung returned to the DUC around noon to find the perpetrator tearing those sheets down as well.

“I heard someone screaming ‘Fuck you and your fucking wall!’” Hussung said. The student who took down the papers, before heading upstairs to the second floor of the DUC, told Hussung to “eat shit, you motherfucker” as Hussung attempted to film him using a cell phone camera.

Hussung did not know the identity of the perpetrator, and again called EPD. Hussung said they submitted a Bias Report on Monday around 8:15 p.m. for the vandalism and verbal assault that occurred over the previous two days.

“I was not feeling very safe,” Hussung said of the Monday encounter. “What made me feel that way was the fact that they would hurl such hurtful words at me just because I was associated with a wall that was supposed to educate you.”

ESJP constructed the wall as part of Israeli Apartheid Week, an annual international awareness week that seeks to draw attention to harsh policies of the Israeli government on the Palestinian territory, which lies within Israel’s boundaries, according to ESJP member and former Palestinian citizen Masri, who added that the act of vandalism hit her on a personal level.

“That’s hurtful to me — to try to take the truth away — because there is oppression going on there,” she said. “I know. I’ve lived there.”

Masri was born in the U.S. and moved to Palestine with her family at age three. She returned to live in the U.S. during second grade but said she moved back after the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York. She said she understood that Israeli Apartheid was “an emotional issue” but added that ESJP did not mean to discriminate against any nationality.

“This is in no way anti-semitic — it is not okay to discriminate against any nationality,” Masri said, adding that she has faced plenty of such discrimination herself.

“I’ve had people come up to me and scream at me, saying that I’m a terrorist,” she said. “That kind of discrimination is not okay.”

Hussung added that the group had not meant to target Jewish people.

“One of the most important distinctions we want to make in this issue is that being Jewish is not the same as being Israeli, or as agreeing with Israeli foreign policy,” Hussung said. “People are demonizing us without even reading what’s on the wall, and they can’t, because people keep tearing it down.”

ESJP reassembled the wall, which read in black spray-painted letters, “Israel is an apartheid state,” late Tuesday morning. It held a sign reading “4th Geneva Convention, Article 49: Settlements Are Illegal, Signed by Israel in 1951,” in reference to the Convention’s article banning an occupying state from allowing citizens to settle in occupied territory, namely, Palestine.

It also displayed a list of frequently asked questions, such as “What is Gaza and what is Hamas? Why was it in the news over the summer?” and information on the wall separating Palestine from Israel and ESJP’s political stance.

“We oppose all forms of oppression (including anti-Arab racism, anti-semitism and Islamophobia),” the group wrote in a paper posted on the wall. “We oppose the occupation of Palestine by the State of Israel, and we support Palestinian self-determination and the application of international law in Israel-Palestine.”

The wall stood at the Terraces as of late Thursday afternoon.

“We will not be silenced by fear,” Hussung said.

In his email, Nair wrote that free expression is open to all students but also offered a cautionary message.

“…we understand that — while the demonstration wall is an expression of free speech — it may be painful for some members of the Emory community,” Nair wrote. “We ask all members of our community to weigh these responsibilities carefully when exercising their right to open expression. Let us deliberate ideas, ideologies and policies with which we disagree, rather than target individuals or groups with whom we disagree.”

Regarding Nair’s recommendation for students to “carefully” exercise their free expression rights, Hussung wrote in an email to the Wheel that ESJP members “have facts on the wall, facts about Palestinians’ human rights being violated by the state of Israel.”

Hussung wrote that “it may be painful for some people to face those facts,” but that “it is essential that we have all those facts, because the pain experienced by Palestinians who are living (and dying) under apartheid cannot be eclipsed by the pain of wrestling with the reality of the consequences of Israel’s actions.”

When asked whether the University would provide protection for student groups when their rights to freedom of expression are threatened, Garrett wrote in an email to the Wheel that, as expressed by the Open Expression Policy, “any individual group can make a request for additional security, and Campus Life will help support that decision.”

ESJP has declined security assistance for the group’s wall, according to Garrett and Hussung.

Andrew Alter, vice president of Israel Affairs for the Jewish student group Emory Hillel, sent out an email regarding ESJP’s Israeli apartheid wall to members affiliated with Hillel around 10 p.m. on Sunday.

In his email, he urged Hillel members to post pictures of themselves in Israel or Israel-supportive websites on social media on Tuesday, to stop by Hillel’s Wonderful Wednesday table this week and to attend a question and answer session event on Thursday at 7 p.m., the location of which was yet to be determined.

“We think [the wall] is counterproductive towards a conversation on the oppression and suffering of people in the Middle East,” Alter said in an interview with the Wheel. As for the email, he said members affiliated with Hillel thanked him for urging them to show their pride of the Jewish state.

Alter added that the Jewish student group sent a message to members discouraging them from tampering with the wall.

“We do not support this,” he said. “No one [in Hillel] I talked to supported this.”
Katie Fishbein, a College junior and member of Hillel, said she was upset that the Jewish student group didn’t immediately send out a campus-wide email condemning the vandalism of ESJP’s wall collage.

“While I truly, vociferously disagree with what’s on that wall, it’s extremely important that they have the right to express their views,” Fishbein said, adding that she had initially asked Hussung if ESJP had taken it down on their own when she heard about the Sunday incident.

Fishbein added that “putting up a wall” may not be the best method of creating conversation, and that “it’s sometimes not what you say, but how you say things that matters.”

In a later email to the Wheel, Fishbein said she did not condone Hillel’s responsive Truth Wall, which was erected on McDonough Field Wednesday.

“That the plan to respond was to build a Truth Wall to counteract the initial Apartheid Wall, I am so sorry for that,” she wrote. “Building walls, figuratively and literally, puts up blockades to dialogue and to progress. Yet that doesn’t warrant a response of vandalism.”

In response to the SJP wall, Jewish student group Hillel erected their own “Truth Wall” on Tuesday on McDonough Field. Photo by Melissa Defrock / Staff
In response to the SJP wall, Jewish student group Hillel erected their own “Truth Wall” on Tuesday on McDonough Field. Photo by Melissa Defrock / Staff

The Truth Wall, a blue poster with white tape, was divided into two sections: “The Myths” and “The Facts.”

Under the latter heading, four paragraphs of text included statements like, “Arabs are represented in the Knesset, and have served in the Cabinet, high-level foreign ministry posts” and “More than 40,000 Palestinians from the territories work in Israel every day.”

Beneath “The Myths” were three paragraphs under the headings, “Myth 1: Israel is an apartheid state,” “Myth 2: Israel’s security fence is an ‘apartheid’ wall” and “Myth 3: Israel commits war crimes by killing civilians.”

Hillel also held a pep rally at the Woodruff Health Sciences Center Administration Building on Thursday night as part of its initiative in response to ESJP’s Israel Apartheid Wall.

Ethan Arbiser, a Hillel member and College sophomore who is also associated with Jewish student group Chabad on Campus, wrote in an email to the Wheel he thought the perpetrator’s tearing down the ESJP wall was “completely inappropriate.”

He added that the Truth Wall “gives people a better perspective” on the conflict between the state of Israel and residents of Palestine.

“It allows the students unfamiliar with the conflict to see both sides of the argument,” Arbiser wrote. “Most importantly, the Truth Wall constructed [on Tuesday] illuminates many of the misconceptions about Israel that are posted on the Apartheid Wall.”

Alter expressed a similar sentiment.

“We erected the Truth Wall not as a way to end conversations but to show people walking by that there is another side and, if interested, they should try to learn more,” Alter later wrote in an email to the Wheel. “Hopefully next year, no one will build walls, and we can instead devote this time towards planning informative events together.”

— By Lydia O’Neal, Asst. News Editor

30 comments

  1. Avatar
    jk579 4 years ago

    Looks like they got a taste of their own hateful medicine

    1. Avatar
      emorystudent123 4 years ago

      Get lost you rat.

      1. Avatar
        Arafat 4 years ago

        Get lost you rat.

  2. Avatar
    John Galt Report 4 years ago

    All anyone needs to know about the Middle East conflict is
    that the Jews want peace and the Arabs don’t, because the Arabs hate Jews for
    religious reasons and they want them dead. Politics, territory – these are just
    excuses.

    Whenever I make this point it always seems to annoy the
    right sort of people, so I thought I might as well do it again. If you’re one
    of these people, then you’ll likely be a supporter of the boycott, divestment
    and sanctions campaign that has been so comically ineffective because the world
    depends on Israeli technology, and that’s where the money is, not oranges and
    avocados.

    If you support BDS, will you boycott the chip in your phone
    or computer, or is it just Israeli fruit and vegetables that you have a moral
    problem with? Maybe you’re one of the people who feel entitled to shout down Israeli
    speakers in universities, or to disrupt concerts and sports events that other
    people have paid money to enjoy. Or perhaps you campaign for the boycott of
    Israeli academics, to block the free exchange of information and understanding.
    All this is on the same moral level as book burning, and if you’re a part of
    this movement, you’re a part of that. Also, the relentless focus solely on
    Israel that ignores the world’s real human rights violators tells us that this
    is an anti-Semitic movement, and if you’re a part of it, you’re a part of that,
    too.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HHC8KC5cLs8&list=UUWOkEnBl5TO4SCLfSlosjgg

  3. Avatar
    John Galt Report 4 years ago

    How about the Jewish Students create a wall that says…”Palestine is a Terrorist State”. Would ESJP be OK with that? I tend to think not. Would the Emory administration be OK with that? I seriously doubt it.

    1. Avatar
      jerryvandesic 4 years ago

      There’s a significant difference between not being “OK with that” and destroying the thing you are not OK with.

      1. Avatar
        John Galt Report 4 years ago

        Guarantee if “Palestine is a Terrorist State” wall were put up, there would be violence.

        1. Avatar
          emorystudent123 4 years ago

          Put it up. Don’t just assume. So far the jews are not setting a very good precedent. You are just proving to the Emory community that the jewish community is intolerant and cannot have their views challenged.

  4. Avatar
    John Galt Report 4 years ago

    Very one sided and poorly written article. ‘Reporter’ did not even question the vile claim that “Israel is an apartheid state,”
    and took as a given the false Palestinian claims…
    “This is in no way anti-Semitic — it is not okay to discriminate against any nationality.”

    That’s an outright lie. SJP of which ESJP is chapter is a known an anti-Semitic group which is actively seeking to destroy the worlds only Jewish State.

    What about the hurt caused by vile misrepresentation of labeling Israel an Apartheid state? This was not even raised.

    With all of the ‘hate’ speech codes at Emory, how is it conceivable for SJP, itself an openly anti-Semetic hate group, to call Israel, the only Democracy in the Middle East–surrounded by Dictators and Islamic Terrorist organizations–an ‘Apartheid State’ and not have this considered hate speech to the thousands of Jewish students at Emory?

  5. Avatar
    Arafat 4 years ago

    You want apartheid? Try this.

    The top ten countries for persecuting Christians over the last year were ranked: North Korea, Somalia, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Maldives, Pakistan, Iran and Yemen, according to Open Doors USA, an organization that monitors and exposes Christian persecution around the globe. Particularly, the “2014 World Watch List”, a rather nuanced report, has highlighted these nations based on deep structures of persecution.

    Take note that nine out of ten of these countries are Islamic.

    Looks like Islam is on par with North Korea.

    1. Avatar
      John Galt Report 4 years ago

      Pathetic how the University kowtows to the hate group ESPJ.

    2. Avatar
      emorystudent123 4 years ago

      Wow comparing a religion with a dictatorship country? A religion that over a billion people follow? You are a racist.

      If you are a racist I’m sure you don’t mind people comparing jews to rats…. It is only fair, right?

      1. Avatar
        Arafat 4 years ago

        Most of the billion Muslims don’t give a hoot about Islam other than that it makes their lives miserable. They would likely leave in a heartbeat if not for Islam’s racist apostasy laws which threatens their lives if they “choose” to leave Islam.
        Islam, the religion of forced enslavement and fear.

  6. Avatar
    GopherPatriot 4 years ago

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HHQIzaZoCfI

    Former IDF Special Forces soldier and son of famed Israeli general. If any has standing, it would be him.

    1. Avatar
      John Galt Report 4 years ago

      so you’re argument for the ignorant “free palestine” meme is that some leftist Israeli agrees with your vile lie?

      1. Avatar
        Arafat 4 years ago

        These same leftist would be killed in any extremist Muslim country. Countries where freedom of speech is verboten.

        1. Avatar
          GopherPatriot 4 years ago

          And those countries policies deserve condemnation. But you don’t get it. You label it as “Muslim” in your zealotry to foment hate of Muslims in general. If you did this toward Jews, it would be antisemitic. It’s the same thing – creating a narrative of hate for a group of people. Why is that so hard for you to get?

          Using the standard of other countries and saying, “hey, they aren’t as bad” and then dismissing examples highlight that there is just as bad there as well is a pretty pitiful way to rationalize discrimination and dehumanization of another people.

      2. Avatar
        GopherPatriot 4 years ago

        http://www.breakingthesilence.org.il/

        People can judge for themselves. Keep your insults. You’re bent out of shape because people are finally being exposed to the reality of the situation.

  7. Avatar
    Freshmanatemory 4 years ago

    These people clearly just wanted to put up something inflammatory to gain attention. That they thought spray painting in massive letters “Israel is an apartheid state” would be at all conducive to civil discourse is laughable , regardless of the veracity of that statement. ESPJ probably does care deeply about Israeli injustices and Palestine etc. etc. and resorting to something like this wall is clearly effective to spark debate and bring attention to the issue. However for ESPJ to blatantly gloss over the fact that most of their wall contained something that is arguably offensive and definitely does promote “Islamaphobia” is dubious. ESPJ had to have known that Emory is an unprecedented 30 something percent Jewish and for them to put a sign up of such incendiary nature shows that ironically they aren’t at all sensitive. Putting up a wall in front of the cafeteria that places Israel on the same level as 1940-1990 South Africa is not how a pro-Palestinian group is going to make progress at a place like Emory where so many students and staff are culturally and religiously tied to Israel.

    I also think that there’s nothing wrong with being an activist for human rights violations across the globe, especially if you’ve actually lived in a place like Palestine. Having said that I do think it’s a bit weird that a group of (I’m making assumptions here) predominantly non Palestinian people who don’t live/never have lived anywhere near Palestine would be getting so worked up about this. Why not try to better the lives of the disadvantaged in the metro atlanta area or from their home towns where they grew up. Their/our efforts in those arenas closer to home and where we live are bound to have much greater effect than people arguing about stuff happening a gazillion miles away. The time/money they spent making that sign could’ve fed some poor kid from the area for a week. Just saying

    1. Avatar
      John Galt Report 4 years ago

      Calling Israel an ‘apartheid state’ not just ‘arguably offensive’. It’s a vile, Anti-Semitic lie, not much different than the Elders of Zion myth.

      The Students for Justice in Palestine movement has terrorist roots and is out to destroy Israel and the Jews.Sad how the University Kow-tows to this hate group…in the name of tolerance.

      1. Avatar
        emorystudent123 4 years ago

        So anyone who insults Israeli government policy is an anti-semite? That is a complete joke and getting very old. And calling people who back Palestine terrorists is literally the most racist thing out there. And people wonder why jews feel so alienated in many places. You are a complete racist and bigot and have no place in a country that has free speech and freedom of expression. Accept people have views different from yours and stop being a racist bigot with antiquated views.

        1. Avatar
          Arafat 4 years ago

          Thank you, you made my point exactly. To you, there’s only one conversation: That Israel is committing “ethnic cleansing, apartheid, and occupation.” No amount of facts will ever make you change your mind. And if any evidence surfaces that might contradict what you have convinced yourself to be the truth, you dismiss it with a wave of your hand as “pinkwashing.” Or “greenwashing,” or “girlwashing,” or “techwashing.”

          To you, Israel is not a real place with real people who live there. It’s a cardboard cutout, a caricature, a movie monster with Palestinian blood dripping from its fangs. You aren’t capable of logical or intellectual thought about it because you don’t want to think about what’s actually happening there. You just want to spew your hate and convince everyone else to be a brainwashed drone like you.

          That’s why when *I* talk about the actual issue, you deflect to “Israel’s occupation.”

          Israel’s occupation IS NOT the subject of this thread, kid. SJP spewing lies about it, is. I am not the
          one off topic, you are.

          1. Avatar
            GopherPatriot 4 years ago

            Arafat, you preaching about going off topic on an online comment board?

            That’s bad comedy.

            Arafat is a well known Disqus poster who trolls against minority groups like Muslims and their religion. He posts tangentially on articles involving his target population in order to promote a hateful narrative. His posts are driven in the hope that some nutjob perhaps will act out on his hateful narrative to deal with the “threat” of Muslims.

            For a preview of what will follow:
            1) Arafat will insult those who refute his narrative by invoking that they are “tards”, “liberals”, “apologists” and the like
            2) Arafat will state his narrative as “fact” and all others as “opinion”
            3) Arafat will randomly toss in derogatory remarks, quotes and snippits about Islam that show his level of understanding and interpretation is the same as extremists, which is to say, simply ignorant and invalid
            4) Arafat will quote random historical figures who malign minority groups such as Muslims or their faith, as a “proof”, while failing to recognize many figures have said hateful things about people throughout history, including Jews, blacks, gays, Hispanics, Catholics, etc, etc
            5) Arafat will dodge every discussion point by posting tangential responses
            6) Arafat fails to adhere to honest dialogue and is an ideologue promoting a hateful narrative
            7) Arafat will employ false equivalency and retreat after having sufficiently warped a Disqus threat to allow him to post his hate

            8) Arafat will accuse opponents of the tactics he demonstrates repeatedly

            You have a right to spout your bigotry. We have a right to call you out on it.

        2. Avatar
          P. Nile Schwartz 4 years ago

          don’t be silly. The Israeli government frequently discriminates against Jews. This is a valid insult of said government.

          Lying about it in an attempt to promote Jewhatred is the hobby of Jewhaters.

  8. Avatar
    Arafat 4 years ago

    Ahh…a true multiculturalist’s logic on display.
    While we are at it let’s welcome the local KKK Chapter too so that we can hear their minority opinions as well.

    1. Avatar
      Alumna 4 years ago
  9. Avatar
    P. Nile Schwartz 4 years ago

    Actually, Israel’s not, and it was quite appropriate that lies created to incite a hatred of Jewish sovereignty and Jewish civil rights be torn down.

  10. Avatar
    P. Nile Schwartz 4 years ago

    hamas and fatah, both of which are Pentagon-propped quisling movements, are direct offshoot of the Hajj Amin al Husseini-Adolf Eichmann genocide movement of WWII.

    The vile pond filth are fully aware of this, and only have the objective of loyally serving their US/EU elitist masters by attributing to Jews the vile bigotry that is the *policy* of fatah and hamas.

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