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Palestine Awareness Week promotes recognition

By Katherine Hafner

February 26, 2013, 12:41 am

A makeshift wall in Bruin Plaza and a discussion event in the Humanities building today are part of the annual Palestine Awareness Week, hosted by the Students for Justice in Palestine.

The student group, which promotes justice and human rights for Palestinians, hosts the event every year to educate students about Palestine and its people’s rights, said Rahim Kurwa, a graduate student in the UCLA Department of Sociology and board member of the student organization.

The week will feature a series of events, many of which will be held near what Students for Justice in Palestine members call a “mock apartheid wall.” The wall is intended to symbolize the controversial separation barrier that borders the West Bank territory.

The week will culminate in a Palestinian cultural celebration Thursday night at the Los Angeles Tennis Center Clubhouse.

For many supporters of Palestinian self-determination, central issues to the Israel-Palestine conflict include the end of Israeli occupation of the West Bank, the right of return to Israel and the Palestinian territories for refugees of the 1948 Arab-Israeli war and the end of a years-long blockade of the Gaza Strip.

Kurwa said this year’s events will build upon a growing segment of the campus and international population who recognize the rights of Palestinian people.

“We want to make that section (of students) bigger and bigger,” he said. “We hope it eventually becomes a general consensus that (Palestinians) should have equal rights.”

Bruins for Israel, a pro-Israel group at UCLA, plans to make a presence on campus this week as well, said Jonathan Gilbert, a fourth-year political science student and president of the organization.

Members of the group intend to educate students about their side of the issue and pass out informational flyers on and near Bruin Plaza, he said.

“We’re taking action to be out (on campus) and discuss the Middle East with fellow Bruins,” Gilbert said. “We’re pro-peace and also support Israel’s right to security.”

Kurwa said the Students for Justice in Palestine started a push last November to call for a public debate on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

“So far, no one has accepted our offer for a neutral debate,” he said. “We’d like to use this event to ensure (students) are aware of this invitation.”

Another new focus this year will be the University of California’s role on the issue, Kurwa said. This will be present in the group’s event on Wednesday, called “Do UC What I See?: University Investments in Israeli Apartheid.”

“(The UC’s role) has always been a part of our event, but it is especially featured this year,” he said.

Compiled by Katherine Hafner, Bruin senior staff.

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