April 10th marked the 60th anniversary of the Jewish state of Israel. On campus, the Georgetown Israeli Alliance held a "birthday party" of sorts on Copley Lawn to celebrate Jewish history and culture in a festive manner. I partook in the activities, helping myself to free falafel, hookah and music. I really enjoyed myself!
The next day an article came out in the Hoya that described a protest that occurred at the same time as the birthday party I was enjoying. About 30 demonstrators, the article reads, protested nonviolently in Red Square beside the festivities. A representative, Harald Fuller-Bennett (GRD ’09), stated that the reason for protest was the slogan that ran on the flyers advertising for the event on the lawn that read: "Israel: Sexy at Sixty." The organizers of the protest made a small, 8.5 by 11 inch postcard that they put beside GIA's flyers around campus a few days before the event. The card read: “Whatever you think about Israel, whatever you think about Palestine, is this sexy?” There were two pictures, one of a wounded Israeli soldier and one of a dead Palestinian child. Fuller-Bennett is cited as saying that he found GIA's slogan "offensive." The protest, which included participants sitting in Red Square wearing black shirts, tape across their mouths and some neck-scarves, remained completely nonviolent and non-confrontational. Fuller-Bennett cites the protest as a success, saying that people saw them in Red Square and that their message was clear - that there is a need to remember the countless people displaced by this conflict in the Middle East. The GIA are cited as saying they appreciated that those who were offended approached them, and a few days after people came forward, the "Sexy" slogan was removed.
I think that this was a really effective protest. We just discussed the Israel-Palestine issue in my Conflict Studies class and thought a lot about what exactly we could do, as American students, to engage ourselves in this seemingly never-ending and extremely violent conflict. We came to a sort of conclusion that a certain level of awareness of all sides of the issue is paramount. As American citizens, with Israel being a high-profile ally of the United States, we tend to only see a biased view of the conflict. But the very acknowledgment of pain and suffering on both sides of the issue and a sympathetic, delicate and open-minded approach to debates, discussions or celebrations having to do with the situation is incredibly important. I think that the Students for Justice in Palestine group did a great job of nonviolently, but powerfully reinforcing the importance of this sympathy and empathy for all those who are suffering from the violence. This does not mean, of course, that the GIA couldn't have a party - it was just a delicacy issue, I think, treating the situation with the seriousness and consideration it deserves.
One criticism I would have, maybe, would be the fact that I didn't know the protest was going on. I am almost ashamed to admit that it didn't even cross my mind to think about any sort of Palestinian opposition to the celebrations. But I still think that the non-confrontational and nonviolent approach, so as to not cause animosity or uproar, was a really powerful way to show that a symbolic nonviolent approach to a much larger, very violent situation can have an important effect of inspiring dialogue and reminding people of the darker side of an ever-present issue we may have learned to look beyond.