Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Sexy at Sixty?

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.


joseph gavronsky said...

i stopped by the israel celebration, but did not think much about any conflict in the middle east. later i walked through red square and i noticed the nonviolent protest. a friend of mine was one of the protestors. he could not speak because he had tape over his mouth but he pointed at the pictures of wounded soldiers and children. growing up jewish, i have always been bias towards israel really up until my time at georgetown when i have had the opportunity to learn more. witnessing this nonviolent protest reminded me of what concepcion picciotto told me: that israel is not a jewish state but a zionist state. then she showed me a picture of orthodox jews holding signs that said just that. personally i don't take sides and i am not biased anymore. i know very little, but i believe there is a nonviolent solution. it is not about one side winning and defeating the other. it is not about good versus bad. we are all human.

JennaK said...

Days leading up to the Israel 60 year anniversary celebrations, I noticed the flyers and signs all over campus informing passer-bys about the events. “Moon bounces,” “Free Food,” “Free T-Shirts” all of the flyers exclaimed. And truthfully, I found the whole thing to be rather inappropriate. Firstly, I think that by endorsing Israel as “sexy” it completely misinforms those who do not know much about the Arab-Israeli conflict. Regardless of what side one takes in the conflict, there is absolutely nothing about it that is sexy. It has been sixty years of conflict and struggle for many Israelis and Palestinians. Additionally, the fact that the word ‘Israel’ was plastered all over campus for about a week further proves the biased view Americans take towards the conflict. GIA should have included an information session with speakers of some kind to inform people about the conflict. Overall, I think that the protests against the "sexy at sixty" celebrations were effective – they stole much of the limelight from the GIA events without being disruptive or disrespectful. It is worth noting what they were doing in protest: sitting with their mouths taped shut wearing black. This symbolized the darkness of the conflict’s history and that Palestinians have very much been without a voice for the past sixty years.