The Collegian
Monday, February 26, 2024

“Palestine 101”: students learn about the Palestinian struggle in informative session

<p>Photo courtesy of Helen Mei.&nbsp;</p>

Photo courtesy of Helen Mei. 

On March 21, Students for Justice in Palestine organized a Palestine 101 session in the Tyler Haynes Commons. The goal of the session was to educate attendees about the Palestinian struggle under Israeli apartheid, according to the event banner. 

The session was led by Dana El Kurd, assistant professor of political science, who focuses her work on topics ranging from the politics of the Middle East to Palestine and repression, according to the University of Richmond website.

The session began with El Kurd briefing attendees on the history of Palestine, nationalism and identity of Palestine as a whole.

“It’s funny when people do not accept identities when identities themselves are a social construct,” El Kurd said about people who do not recognize Palestine.

The session educated the audience on terms like Zionism, settler-colonialism and fragmentation. El Kurd also elaborated on “Nakba," which is an Arabic word meaning “catastrophe” and refers to Israel’s ethnic cleansing of Palestine, its exiling of Palestinians and making them into refugees, according to the Institute for Middle East Understanding website

Senior Razan Khalil, president of the Students For Justice in Palestine organization, talked about how, as an organization, their main goal is to educate.

They want to inform others of what has happened and is happening in Palestine so action can be taken to help the Palestinian people and challenge the systems in place, they wrote in an email to The Collegian on Mar. 28.

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“Knowledge is the ultimate power and that is why we believe it is important to have events like Palestine 101,” Khalil wrote.

Khalil also stressed the importance of talking about these issues to ensure that they are not being forgotten.

“A tactic that the Israeli occupation uses is to erase the memories of Palestine and Palestinians from ever existing. This is done through changing history books, street names, renaming and claiming culture, stealing homes, really anything that ensures Palestine is forgotten,” Khalil wrote. “I want to continue having these events for many years to come at UR.”

The event had 12 attendees, and Khalil expressed how thankful they were for the outcome. They shared that the most impactful moment of the event was when attendees asked questions at the end.

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Senior Mohamad Hussein was one of the attendees who shared their thoughts and perspectives that helped bring up meaningful conversations during the event.

One of the questions Hussein raised was about Hamas, a Palestinian Islamist political organization and militant group that has waged war on Israel since 1987, according to Vox.

“My question is, sometimes, people refer to Hamas as a terrorist organization while others refer to it as an organization trying to protect national identity. Where do you think Hamas stands on this spectrum?” Hussein said.

Hussein also added his perspective as a Palestinian from Lebanon.

“People [in my country] look back at Hamas as trying to protect Gaza from being occupied or taken over, so I am curious to see what others think about this,” he added.

El Kurd first gave a brief description of the history of Hamas in context of politics and explained how the word “terrorist” is not a clear label.

“Terrorism in political science is a very broad concept. Some people think of it as a tactic and some think of it as an ideology. I don’t think it’s useful to say whether [Hamas] is a terrorist group or not. It’s more useful to see what tactics they are using,” El Kurd said.

All the questions asked during the event helped El Kurd further elaborate on the history and complexities of the Palestinian struggle. 

Attendees described the session as meaningful, educational and something that students across the UR campus should attend and know about. 

Contact international editor Ahona Anjum at ahona.anjum@richmond.edu.

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