January 17, 2010

Students to raise money for Gaza victims this month

A year after Operation Cast Lead--one of the deadliest attacks of the recent Gaza conflict--Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) are organizing a series of events to raise aid money and keep students informed.

A part of Gaza Commemoration Month, SJP-organized events include fund raising for a United Nations relief agency, a "justice café," and a lecture by a prominent Palestinian-American academic. "We should reflect upon this [conflict] so that we figure out a way to avoid it in the future," third-year and SJP president Nadia Ismail said.

Proceeds from this week's tabling will go to the UN's relief agency, whose headquarters were hit by Israeli artillery fire last January, Ismail said. The organization continues to provide humanitarian aid to thousands of Palestinians.

Next week, SJP will host a "justice café," featuring performances from SJP, Organization of Black Students, and Hillel members meant to start a discussion of "issues of justice and injustice," Ismail said.

Dr. Hatem Bazian, a Palestinian-American professor at the University of California-Berkley, will lead a panel at the end of the month with a representative of the Palestinian Children’s Relief Fund. The event, "Beseiged Gaza: One Year Later," is set for January 29.

Ismail said the events will correct misunderstandings many have about the Gaza conflict. “A lot of people do not understand the situation and this misunderstanding has led to not caring,” she said.

Chicago Friends of Israel President and second-year Hayley Ossip agreed that few students understand the conflict, and said SJP's current program was "definitely better" than last year's controversial flash mob, where participants froze in place in Hutch Commons and Bartlett to bring attention to perceived Israeli wrongdoing. "I applaud them for doing it in such a civil way," she said.

SJP members “have all the right to be sad about the loss of human life,” Ossip said. “However, we look at the Gaza situation as something different, with a bit more focus on why it had to happen...There was value in the Gaza war."