In The Spirit Of Israeli Apartheid Week, We Demand Justice.

On February 29th, 2012 Israeli Reservist Sergeant Benjamin Anthony brought his speaking tour ‘Our Soldiers Speak’ to my university, The George Washington University. The event was brought to my attention two days prior through a tweet from @CampusSpeakers1, who has been seemingly tasked with publicizing the event as she tweeted to scores of people advertizing the event. From 6:58 PM on February 26, 2012 until 10:58 AM February 27 @CampusSpeakers1 did nothing but advertize the event.

(Screen shot of @CampusSpeakers1’s tweet to me)

(Not only was I notified of the event, so was GWU’s SJP)

It is worth mentioning that I have never interacted with @CampusSpeakers1 on Twitter before. I did not reply to their tweet either. I approached members of our university’s SJP and we decided we would attend. The day before the event, SJP launched Israeli Apartheid Week and hosted Mr. Bill Fletcher as our introductory speaker. Members of GWU Hillel and other pro-Israel student groups attended, asked questions and discussed their views with Mr. Fletcher and members of SJP during the IAW event. We headed to Mr. Anthony’s talk in the same spirit, but were not welcomed in the same manner.

As we approached the venue in which the event was to be held, a huge sign donning the George Washington University emblem greeted us, signifying that it was an official GWU event. There was also a banner that read ‘Meor,’ . I can only assume that Meor, a Jewish organization (http://meor.org), was in charge of holding the event. Once reaching the doors of the venue, I, and about a dozen others, were denied entry after two of us were heard speaking Arabic. An orthodox Jewish woman inquired about our presence in Hebrew to another figure standing at the door. Immediately after, a man approached us claiming that the event was closed and that we were not to be allowed in. I responded by showing them the tweets I and GWU SJP received notifying us of the event. Sgt. Benjamin Anthony advertised his events on his personal Twitter account stating clearly that they are open to all students. Why was his event at GWU any different?

Soon after, the organizers called the University Police Department (UPD) on us for doing nothing more than attempting to attend their event. The organizers told UPD that the event was private and that they had a strict guest list. They (the organizers) demanded that UPD remove us away from not only the venue, but also the hallway. They referred to us as ‘protesters,’ yet could provide no proof that we were coming to protest. They then demanded the keys to the doors so that they may lock them and prevent us from entering, to which UPD complied.

As we stood outside of the event, a Jewish attendee of the event began speaking to me. When I expressed my outrage over being discriminated against, the man replied by saying “Different religious and ethnic groups have the right to discriminate against each other.” The man, who allowed entrance to the event, also told me that he was not notified of the event, did not register and did not know who the organizers of the event were.

UPD asked for a list of attendees so as to confirm that the event was indeed closed but the organizers could not provide a list. Moreover, UPD pointed out that in order to hold an event in the University 75% or more of the attendees must be University students. The organizers could not account for their attendees and the UPD remained until the end of the event in order to check ID’s and confirm that university policy was not violated. Unfortunately, we were not able to stay until the end of the event to find out the outcome. From what I saw of the audience, however, I have no doubt that university policy was indeed violated.

To add onto this blatant display of discrimination, a male attendee (who was not affiliated with GWU), shoved a female student as she approached him inquiring why she was barred from entering. UPD was notified and he was immediately escorted off of campus and banned from returning. Even after being pressed multiple times by UPD, organizers still could not provide evidence to support their claim that the event was closed. When I explained to the organizers that I had been invited to the event, one responded by saying, “I am confused, this is not how the group operates.” In other words, transparency and inclusivity are not characteristic of the organization holding the event. A student who was allowed into the event was removed a few minutes into the lecture for simply being unfamiliar to those attending. This student happened to be Lebanese Christian.

The last time I felt this humiliated was at Qalandia checkpoint in the occupied West Bank. This goes to show that the secrecy and discrimination that are characteristic of Zionism are by no means limited to those suffering under Israeli occupation and apartheid. This is a direct consequence of the privilege and ethnic hierarchy by which Zionism operates. The difference in this scenario is as a student of The George Washington University and a citizen of the United States I do have enforceable rights and means of holding these individuals accountable. In the spirit of Israeli Apartheid Week, we demand justice.