University students received a taste of the latest strife caused by boiling tensions in the Middle East March 1 as they walked through a Diag filled with display tents and mock refugee camps.
The displays, which consisted of graphic photos of suffering Afghani, Iraqi and Palestinian people as well as literature on the respective conflicts, drew campus-wide attention. Many of the canvas refugee camps bore inscriptions about real Palestinian refugees.
One mock campsite read, “This is the tent of Ali El Khatib. Displaced from Tarshiha, 1948. Re-displaced from Imwas, 1967. Re-re-displaced from Khan Younis, 2001.”
Another listed a timeline explaining the movement of Palestinian refugees as well as the thousands of home demolitions that resulted from Israeli occupation policies.
LSA senior and Students Allied for Freedom and Equality President Fadi Kiblawi, who helped organize the exhibit, said the mock refugee camps serve as a tribute to the forgotten rights of the Palestinian people.
“International law has been completely ignored by the Israelis, and Israel needs to end its terrorism against the 3.5 million Palestinians they’ve been oppressing for the past 55 years in the West Bank and Gaza,” he said.
But some students were unhappy with the message the displays were sending spectators. Members representing the American Movement for Israel also stood on the Diag and passed out literature offering the campus a different angle on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“From the exhibition students get the impression that (the refugees) were just driven out. It’s much more complicated than that,” LSA senior David Post said. “We completely understand and agree with the right of people to express the plight of refugees. But we also think it’s important to expose students to the context of what occurred so that it’s not one-sided, and that context is war.”
But Kiblawi said he found the literature, which asserted that the relocation of Palestinians from Israel was performed on a largely voluntary basis, distasteful and untrue.
“(The quarter sheets) are making a statement that is not only offensive to the Palestinian people but to all of mankind. Attempting to rewrite and change history to erase the ethnic cleansing and suffering of an entire nation is a crime against humanity,” he said. Many students left the Diag disturbed by the provocative images the displays held.
“Nobody needs to talk because pictures speak louder than words, and after looking at those (Iraqi) children, it kind of makes you think twice before spending $15 on dinner,” LSA graduate Mohsen Nasir said.
LSA senior Henna Tirmizi said she hoped the displays helped people to better understand the conflict in Iraq. “When people think of Iraq, they think of Saddam Hussein, not of the millions of people that are suffering over there,” she said.
LSA graduate Ann Pattock said she appreciated the unique perspective the Afghanistan display offered. “It’s interesting. I’m kind of sorry to see there aren’t more people stopping and paying attention. It’s good that people are getting the other side of the story than what we hear in the media in terms of Afghanistan,” she said.
Engineering junior Omar Khalil said he was also pleased that the campus was given the chance to see an unfamiliar point of view. “This event really put into perspective the kind of suffering the Palestinians are going through which is unfortunately often obscured by media coverage of that region,” he said.
University alum and employee Juan Iturralde said all three displays really opened his eyes. “It’s just incredible how na