By Julia Lerner
Israel’s independence day ends on May 2, so it is only fitting that Israelfest, an event on this university’s campus designed to celebrate Jewish culture, fell on the same day this year.
This year, a number of student groups came together in order to protest the event.
“[The Students for Justice in Palestine] and the Muslim Political Alliance called for a mass boycott of Israelfest” said Sarah Esher, a junior math and philosophy double major and the president of Muslim Political Alliance. The groups are hoping to show that “our university does not support the celebration of an oppressive country.”
“We don’t want to be complicit in celebrating a country that has been militarily occupying another for so many years” said Miranda Mlilo, a sophomore environmental science and policy major.
Like last year, Students for Justice in Palestine took a leading role in organizing the protest. Unlike last year, though, the protest took on a very different approach.
“This year, we’re doing a non-confrontational form of protest” Esher said. Last year, the groups protesting entered Israelfest and staged a die-in, and were later removed by police.
The groups hosted a teach-in at the top of McKeldin Mall during Israelfest and spoke about the history of the Israel-Palestine conflict. Students who organized the boycott were hoping to create a dialogue on campus so that students would leave the boycott more aware of cultures and beliefs different from their own.
“Last year, the point was to disrupt Israelfest and to show that we had a problem with it” Mlilo said. “We wanted to bring attention to the cause of the Palestinians. The point this year was to give people the opportunity to ask us why we’re doing it, to talk to us about it and to hear our side.”
During the boycott, some students booed and jeered at the group as they taught. However, police were quick to intervene and requested that all audience members listen with respect.
“I feel our point is very clear” Mlilo said. “Last year, everyone saw that we were protesting, and this year, people remember it from last year and want to come find out why we did it.”
Featured Photo Credit: Sarah Eshera, a junior math and philosophy double major, presents to a crowd of about 200 during the teach-in at the boycott. This year, the groups boycotting took a less-agressive approach, and decided that teaching individuals about their causes would be another great way to get students involved in conversation about the Israel-Palestine conflict. (Julia Lerner/Photography Editor)
Julia Lerner is a sophomore journalism major and may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.