Palestine Day, Day 8 of International Justice Week, was the most awaited day of the ten day series. The source of continued conflict throughout the month proceeding it, Palestine Day was the most visible, and for many, emotional, demonstration to come to campus throughout International Justice Week.
The events that took place throughout the Eighth Day of International Justice Week were organized by Students for Justice in Palestine. The description of the club on the Bryn Mawr Student activities web page explains the goals of the organization.
"We believe that it is important to have a balance of views and opinions on campus and the Palestinian side of the story seems to be constantly silenced and ignored on this campus. [SJP] is a club that seeks to actually talk about the severity of the oppression against the Palestinian people, raise awareness about the issue on campus, and take action to end the injustices occurring daily against the Palestinians."
With Norman Finkelstein scheduled to deliver his controversial lecture at 8pm that evening, the campus saw an unusually large number of off campus visitors, and anticipatory tension was palpable throughout the day.
Bad weather out of Chicago ultimately led to the cancellation of Finkelstein's lecture, which has been rescheduled to take place this week.
Freshman Anjana Varma was among many students who had planned to attend the lecture. "I was really looking forward to this. I don't know much about the Professor, and last night I went on his website and did some research, and I think he really has a lot to say about it and it would be really good if he came [and shared his perspective]."
Claude Heffron, '09, said "Well, I'm kind of disappointed because no one ever stirs up controversy on this campus. So, I was pretty excited for the controversy, and I was going to go, but, you know, I'm really tired and I'm kind of glad that I get to sleep"
Although the evening proved rather anticlimactic for many students on campus, the student run events of the day proved provocative enough to capture the attention of the whole campus.
By far the most controversial student-run activity taking place during justice week was Wednesday's simulation of a Palestinian checkpoint at Pembroke Arch. The demonstration, which lasted from 11:30 to around 2 in the afternoon, was done according to an email from the coordinators of the event, "to demonstrate one aspect of daily life in the West Bank and Gaza."
Students at the checkpoint were asked for identification, and were searched by students dressed in military fatigues toting fake machine guns. Meanwhile, members of Students for Justice in Palestine were standing on either side of the checkpoint, handing out flyers condemning checkpoints as an abuse of human rights.
BrynPAC, the Bryn Mawr-Israel Public Affairs committee, also maintained a presence in the area immediately surrounding the checkpoint. Students from the club distributed three different flyers in support of Israeli policy regarding checkpoints, and posters were placed around the checkpoint including facts and figures about terrorist attacks on Israel, asking students "What would you do?".
Sgt. John McGettigan, a Bryn Mawr Public Safety Officer, maintained a presence on the quad throughout the duration of the checkpoint demonstration. Public safety also planned to be present at Norman Finkelstein's lecture.
"Every time you have to points going, you could say a plus and a minus, you have a chance for a spark, so it's a good idea to be present." McGettigan said. No conflicts took place on Wednesday over the checkpoint demonstration.
"They've presented good sides to the situation." McGettigan said, noting that students on both sides had been conducting themselves respectfully during the afternoon demonstration.
Najia Mohammed '10, who was handing out flyers for SJP, commented on the response to the checkpoint simulation. "We have people who are interested, and some people who are not, maybe because they're busy. I hope it's that and not that they don't care, which is basically what this is about. We want to raise awareness in people, but it's been a good response thus far."
Alison Reingold ‘09, a member of BrynPAC, was passing out flyers in support of Israeli checkpoints. "People are really great," she said when asked about the response the counter demonstration was receiving. "Either they're willing to take flyers or they're actually interested in the subject." Rinegold felt that the events of the day had been conducted respectfully thus far, and intended to see Norman Finkelstein speak that evening.
Upon attempting to interview the student coordinator of the checkpoint, Hind Eideh ‘09, the President of Students for Justice in Palestine, who was administering the checkpoint at the time, requested both student I.D. and a permit to conduct interviews. I was then informed that I required a permit to interview any checkpoint officer, and that if I didn't present a permit any recording devices on my person would be confiscated.
Sophomore Corey Norcross was impressed with the organization of the checkpoint. "You read about it and you see these things on TV, but when it's right there, right in Pem Arch where the checkpoint is, it's a huge thoroughfare to get through very central parts of campus. It just really hits home, it's a big realization."
In addition to the checkpoint simulation, there was also an art exhibit in the Campus Center Main Lounge entitled, "Military Occupation through the Eyes of Children." Most of the images, accompanied by quotes from the student artist, were representations of violence in the West Bank and Gaza.
According to a description on one of the posters, "These drawings were collected from 2000-2007 and reflect daily life through the eyes of Palestinian children." Each image was generated based on a prompt, such as, "What was the best day of your life?" "What was the worst day of your life?" "Draw a specific incident you remember," or "What does it mean to be Palestinian?"
There was a guest book next to the showcase for students to share their thoughts and feelings about the exhibit.
Norman Finkelstein's lecture will be taking place this Wednesday. The time and place have not changed; the talk will occur at 8 pm in Thomas Great Hall.