By Tammy Rubin
This week, as Palestine Awareness Week takes place at UCLA, the pro-Israel community braces for sound bites, such as “apartheid state” and “occupation.” Meanwhile, campus organizations hope for the publicity and exposure they believe such an issue truly deserves. What’s more important, however, is not what they’re saying but how they’re saying it.
The week harbors many concerns aside from the obvious political overtones sprawled across what is known nationally as the “apartheid wall.” Negative campus climate once again becomes a heated issue that affects not only those involved in political organizations on campus but also the myriad of students unaffiliated with either side who simply hope to get to class on time.
The Arab-Israeli conflict, for many years, has been a contentious issue not only on college campuses but even more so across the globe. This isn’t a new issue. It’s been discussed among world leaders, international peace organizations and intellectuals alike. It’s been studied, documented, researched and discussed heavily in the media.
While there are appropriate places to deliberate the conflict, Bruin Plaza simply is not among them. This submission isn’t meant to silence those who identify themselves as pro-Palestinian. What I do hope to bring awareness to, however, is the fact the apartheid wall severely marginalizes thousands of students on campus and stifles healthy discussion and discourse about potential solutions.
With loud screaming matches between students throughout UCLA’s campus, the concept of appropriate, respectful discussion has fallen through the cracks. As college students, we are at the height of our educational career, learning on a daily basis from world-renowned experts in thousands of different subject areas. We’re immersed in a diverse pool of academia next to whom we sit in class day after day, sharing insight about current events, our various interests and even our personal stories.
How ironic is it that given all the tools we’ve acquired over the last couple decades of our lives, we still engage in weeklong events such as Palestine Awareness Week that clearly draw a separation between two very prominent groups on campus? Rather than focusing on the political undertones associated with the Arab-Israeli conflict and attacking other cultural groups on campus, Palestine Awareness Week should strive to celebrate the Palestinian culture and people.
Negative campus climate affects us all as students studying and living at UCLA. We cannot afford to ignore the elephant in the room. We have an obligation to ourselves, to our friends and to our student community to stand up and fight for a campus where everyone can be comfortable and feel respected regardless of their beliefs. A safe environment for respectful dialogue has the potential for voices from all ends of the spectrum to discuss the different issues without being silenced by intimidating, one-sided presentations in the middle of Bruin Plaza.
We have the tools, why not use them?
Tammy Rubin is a first-year undeclared life sciences student and member of Bruins for Israel.