"Photo by Jessica Lum, Assistant Photo Editor"-----------------------------------------------
"Palestinian-Israeli wall divides campus:
"Model in Bruin Plaza sparks discussion of actual barrier between neighboring territories"
UCLA "Daily Bruin"
University of California at Los Angeles
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Students from the Palestine Coalition set up a wall made of large, painted wooden panels on Tuesday in Bruin Plaza as a representation of the security fence that borders Israeli and Palestinian territories.
This wall holds different meanings for those on different sides of the conflict between the Palestinians and Israelis.
Though Palestinian supporters often refer to the structure as an “apartheid wall,” Israeli supporters reject this label, instead calling it a security fence that protects the country from terrorist threats.
Organizers of Live Free: Palestinian Awareness Week said the purpose of the Bruin Plaza model was to help students understand what the wall means for Palestinians.
To present their view on the event, students from Bruins for Israel set up a display table on Bruin Walk with informational materials about Israel and the security fence and a poster advocating a two-state solution.
The mock wall was painted with a gray background and included images and writing, most of it in the green, black, red and white of the Palestinian flag.
Written on the wall were statements such as “Free Palestine” in large letters and “Freedom – We need a country not a prison.”
“No wall will protect you from the truth,” read another message.
Tawni Wharton, a UCLA alumna from the class of 2005, said the mock wall is an important representation of the conflict in the region and the problems she believes Palestinians there face.
“I think it’s a very powerful metaphor for what’s happening over there,” she said.
Like many of the Palestinian supporters who were at the event, Randa Wahbe, the copresident of Students for Justice in Palestine, said the wall is like a prison for the Palestinian people because it restricts their access to other areas.
“The reason we have the wall (in Bruin Plaza) is because there’s a wall 25 feet high being built on Palestinian territories. It cuts off water and electricity supplies. ... Villages are enclosed,” said Wahbe.
Shirley Eshag-hay, a member of the Bruins for Israel general board, said she believes the event did not present a balanced view of the fence and its security purposes.
“They called it an apartheid wall, implying that Israel is a racist apartheid state, but really the whole point of the fence is security measures to protect Israeli citizens and borders,” said Eshag-hay.
With the Bruins for Israel display near the wall exhibit, the two sides engaged each other repeatedly throughout the day, with vocal students entering into debates with one another and sharing their personal experiences.
Shady Joulani, a third-year Middle Eastern and North African studies student who said he has visited Palestinian territories six times, said he used to be able to travel from his house in the territories to his aunt’s house in the outskirts of Jerusalem by a 10-minute taxi ride, but now, with the fence and numerous security checkpoints along the way, the trip can take hours.
“The wall has severed ties within families,” he said.
He also added that at these security checkpoints, he has been taken aside by Israeli soldiers, interrogated extensively, strip-searched and sometimes not allowed through.
But Leeron Morad, president of Bruins for Israel who used to live in Israel and still visits frequently, said though the security fence and numerous checkpoints are inconveniences, they are necessary for the protection of the people.
“The constant security is an unfortunate fact of life of living in regions of conflict,” he said.
Morad said when he is in Israel he has to go through security almost every time he enters a public place, including grocery stores and restaurants.
“When you live under the constant threat of suicide bombings, of course you need to take whatever precautions that can save civilian lives,” he said of the security measures.
He added that he believes security should not make life more difficult for people, but that the state of Israel balances the need for security to protect its people against threats with respect for the rights of its citizens.
Navdeep Tumber, a fourth-year biology student, said that no matter what one’s political views are, building a fence or wall will not help address the problems she said she believes exist in the Palestinian territories or Israel.
“When has a wall solved any problems?” she asked.
“It’s just going to further isolate and divide people."