After a summer of conflict in Gaza, Students Allied for Freedom and Equality offered University students a close-up perspective on the situation in the West Bank Wednesday.

As part of a Palestinian Awareness Week, SAFE’s Education Day featured a staged simulation of a West Bank checkpoint in the Diag. Some members dressed as Israeli soldiers while others tried to “pass through” their inspection. Two handmade walls painted with “#UMDivest” and maps showing the growth of Israeli settlements over the years served to represent the real wall that runs through the West Bank. The group’s aim was to simulate the experience of Palestinians whose families have been separated by the wall by creating a similar disturbance for students passing through the Diag between classes.

SAFE’s demonstration Wednesday mimicked the daily commute of Palestinians from the West Bank into Israel. The West Bank is a highly contested area due to Israeli settlements, which Palestinians decry as an occupation of land that is rightfully theirs. Between the Israeli and Palestinian sections of the West Bank are Israeli checkpoints, similar to a border patrol between two neighboring countries. These checkpoints have been repeatedly criticized for using racial profiling and unfair treatment of Palestinians when Israeli soldiers conduct searches to prevent transfers of weapons.

The student simulation ran at peak periods between classes throughout the day and SAFE members handed out flyers and other information between demonstrations. SAFE denounces the wall, with members referring to it as the “apartheid wall” and citing incidents involving family members in which the checkpoints hindered timely arrival of ambulances and created other difficulties.

Business junior Laith Hasan, a co-chair of SAFE, said his family lives in Palestine and he has been through the checkpoints himself. He explained the range of difficulties the checkpoints pose for Palestinians and his frustration with what he and his family feel is an injustice by Israeli soldiers.

“For the most part they’re all very similar,” Hasan said. “They’ll make you line up; they’ll make you wait a very long time; they’ll search you; they’ll check your identification; they’ll do random things that they feel like doing; if they want to bring you to the side and talk to you or not let you go through, something like that. It’s really up to the discretion of the soldier at the checkpoint.”

Joel Reinstein, an active member of SAFE, posed as one of the Israeli soldiers for the simulation. Reinstein said he created his script from a combination of researched reports done by human rights groups and firsthand accounts.

Both Reinstein and Hasan were involved in SAFE’s #UMDivest movement last March, which proposed a resolution to Central Student Government that called on the University to divest from companies allegedly involved in human rights violations in Palestine. After the vote on the resolution was postponed indefinitely, SAFE and its supporters staged a sit-in at the CSG chambers until the following meeting a week later, when the assembly ultimately voted against the resolution. SAFE members said they felt muted by CSG’s initial decision to table the proposal. Students perceived to be on either side of the conflict experienced verbal hostility throughout the duration of the sit-in.

Hasan said he hopes this semester will be calmer and that SAFE is encouraging all of its members to report any confrontational incidents. In fact, a passerby approached the SAFE members working the information table Wednesday and berated them with insensitive and accusatory comments regarding Palestine and the students’ families. Hasan said these kinds of issues persist and make students perceived to be Middle Eastern feel unsafe on campus.

“We’re still really fighting a tough battle just trying to get our voice heard and trying to get campus to recognize that the power and privilege dynamics that exist between a group like SAFE and other institutions,” he said.

Representatives from pro-Israel and Jewish organizations on campus were also present on the Diag Wednesday. Business junior Alex Adler, president of American Movement for Israel and treasurer of University of Michigan Hillel, and LSA senior Erica Mindel observed the simulation and kept an eye out for any Jewish students who might have felt threatened or at odds about the performance. Both said SAFE has a “right to self-expression” but felt the demonstration and information presented lacked context.

Mindel said the presentation failed to offer the Israeli argument for the wall, citing incidents of terrorism and other violence that could have been prevented by checkpoints. She said the simulation may have over-dramatized the racial profiling by Israeli soldiers, and that SAFE’s interpretation of events was one-sided.

“I support a Palestinian state, whatever that might look like when a two-state solution happens,” Mindel said. “I don’t think that it would necessarily be the same, but as a Jewish person I think I’m entitled to say I support the state of Israel without that being kind of an outlandish statement.”

The most recent escalation in the struggle between Israel and Palestine began after three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped and killed in June. Israel originally blamed the kidnappings on Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic organization that effectively governs the Gaza Strip and eventually claimed responsibility in August. In July, a Palestinian teenager was murdered by Israelis in what was reported to be a retaliatory killing.

For nearly two months afterward, Israel and Gaza launched thousands of missiles at each other, leading to a 28-day Israeli airstrike along with a 19-day ground invasion of Gaza. As a result, thousands of Gaza residents were killed or displaced.

Palestinian Awareness Week has already featured a Cultural Day on the Diag on Monday and spoken-word performances in Rackham Auditorium Tuesday. The events wrap up Thursday with a movie showing of “When I Saw You,” a drama surrounding an 11-year-old boy’s flight from Palestine to Jordan along with his mother during a period of intense violence in the region.

Clarification: Jewish Voice for Peace was also in attendance on the Diag, and several members of SAFE are involved, according to Reinstein.

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