Visiting Palestinian scholar Sahar Francis decried the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians in Israel and the occupied territories at last night’s lecture, entitled “Ethnic Cleansing in Palestine: Past, Present, and Future.”

University Law Prof. Francis is a Palestinian woman who has worked as a human rights attorney since 1996 focusing on the rights of political prisoners.

Francis’ lecture, sponsored by Students Allied for Freedom and Equality, repeatedly emphasized that alleged ethnic cleansing by Israelis against the Palestinians violates international law. She cited the Geneva Conference, the International Criminal Code Statute and documents from the United Nations to outline her case. Francis defined ethnic cleansing as “cleaning an area of a particular racial group by another racial group.” She said today’s ethnic cleansing is not as obvious as that which occurred in 1948 and 1967, “but it’s hidden” in Israeli policy.

Much of Francis’ lecture detailed the history of Israel’s ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, which she said began before Israel’s 1948 War of Independence.

Francis overviewed the United Nations’ 1948 resolution, which detailed the Palestinians’ right to return to their native land. According to Francis, Israel will not follow this resolution because of “security reasons.”

“By denying this right of return, we are still suffering under ethnic cleansing,” Francis said, adding after the 1967 conflict “people became twice refugees.”

Francis appealed to her audience’s ideas of freedom by speaking of Palestinians’ difficulties in achieving citizenship status in Israel.

“Any house you build … is illegal and could be demolished at any moment,” Francis said. She also spoke about the lack of schools, hospitals and other community and municipal buildings in Palestinian neighborhoods.

When asked about recent suicide bombings by Palestinians, Francis denied the Palestinians’ goal was ethnic cleansing. “I don’t really believe the Palestinians wanted to kick out the Israelis,” Francis said.

The lecture was part of SAFE’s “Palestine, a Day of Remembrance” event. Following the lecture was a remembrance of historic Palestine on the steps of the Michigan Union and walk from the Union to the Ingalls Mall, where they will be camping out for the night, to symbolize the Palestinian expulsion in 1948.

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