Renowned activist Angela Davis drew connections between Israel-Palestine conflict, South African apartheid and the prison system in the United States at a campus event Wednesday.
Students for Justice in Palestine, a student group that aims to promote the self-determination of the Palestinian people and education about the Israel-Palestine conflict, hosted the discussion.
The conversation also included UCLA law professor Asli Ü. Bâli and Robin D.G. Kelley, a history professor and the interim chair of the Interdepartmental Program for Afro-American studies.
Students for Justice in Palestine wanted to hold an event that addressed the intersectional struggles that students face on campus, said Angélica Becerra, a Chicana/o studies doctoral student and outreach director of Students for Justice in Palestine.
The event was meant to educate people about Palestinian territories and highlight the similarities between people working for Palestinian rights and any other groups that may be under oppression, said Omar Zahzah, a second-year comparative literature doctoral student and incoming president of Students for Justice in Palestine.
The discussion addressed incarceration rates in the United States and in Palestinian territories and resistance to forms of oppression.
Davis spoke to the audience about her visit to the West Bank, where she met Omar Barghouti, a founder of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, a global economic and political movement that aims to end the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories. Davis said she thinks the movement’s goals are similar to efforts to end apartheid in South Africa.
Davis said she thinks the problems in Palestine are worse than those related to the South African apartheid. She added that about 40 percent of the male Palestinian population has been arrested and made a comparison between the high incarceration rates of Palestinians and people of color in the United States.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a regional dispute over the occupation of the Palestinian West Bank by the Israeli military and the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip, among other issues, has been a particularly contentious topic at UCLA this year.
In February, Students for Justice in Palestine, along with other student groups, brought forth a resolution to the Undergraduate Students Association Council, which called for UCLA and the University of California to divest from companies that profit from the Israeli occupation of Gaza and the West Bank.
Many students said they were concerned that the resolution was connected to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, which they said marginalizes the Jewish community.
“After divestment failed to pass, many of us had to figure out how to move forward, and many students took the issue of divestment into their classes,” Becerra said.
Davis urged individuals not to be afraid and to support the Palestinian people. She said that the larger a community is, the easier it is for the movement to progress.
“One can stand up to the government. One can stand up to the U.S. government, one can stand up to the French government. Why is the state of Israel supposed to be immune from critique?” Davis asked the crowd.
Becerra added that she thinks it is important to make sure that conversations are happening in the classrooms.
Davis is teaching a graduate course this spring and will remain at UCLA until the end of the quarter.