IAW clashes with campus group
The members of Laurier 4 Palestine (L4P) were met with some opposition during Israeli Apartheid Week, which ran March 12-16, due to controversial images they posted in the Solarium.
L4P, an on-campus Laurier Students’ Public Interest Group (LSPIRG) working group, is geared towards bringing awareness to the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine.
The contents of some of the events that were held were labelled as offensive, particularly by Hillel-Waterloo, an organization for primarily Jewish students at Wilfrid Laurier University and the University of Waterloo.
Conflict incited at Tuesday’s gallery event when the group was asked by a Special Constable supervisor to take down three of their posters, as they, according to him, “Incited hate.”
Rachel Malin, the president of Hillel-Waterloo, explained that some of the images “were pretty appalling to a lot of Jewish students.”
The three “offensive” images paralleled the apartheid of the Palestine to the Holocaust. Fatima Attia and Isra Al-Thibeh, co-presidents of L4P, noted that they were not inferring that the two events are identical.
“For us, it was just saying oppression is oppression,” Attia explained.
Despite adding captions to the posters to provide context, a criticism from last year, several complaints were made in regards to the display.
“It was narrowed down to several Jewish students on campus who were offended and felt unsafe by our pictures,” Attia said. “Not one of them came in and talked to us about it.”
Though the group felt they should have not come down, they removed the three pictures not wanting to upset anyone. “We don’t want to incite hatred, that’s not our intention at all,” Attia asserted.
Their intent was to comment upon the fact that society claims to learn from tragedies like the Holocaust and the enslavement of African Americans, but ignores similar circumstances that are happening now.
“Why can’t we learn from history like we claim to?” Attia questioned, arguing that people can make a difference now.
At Thursday’s “Expression against Oppression” coffee house, L4P had the same display from Tuesday, but did not include the posters they were asked to take down. Even so, the Special Constable Supervisor found a different poster that “incited hate” and demanded it be removed.
After Tuesday’s escapade Attia and Al-Thibeh researched and concluded that their images did not incite hate.
With this knowledge, they refused to remove any more.
Malin explained that Hillel’s goal was to “foster constructive debate” with L4P. She imparted that they encourage inclusivity, acceptance, and diversity, and their concern was about how Israeli Apartheid Week threatened that.
Adam Lawrence, manager of the diversity and equity office at Laurier, described both groups as very mature, emphasizing how happy he was with the discussion that took place.
Due to the various ways of interpreting the word “apartheid,” he admitted that it is a very controversial topic.
“But it’s really, what is the week about? And I think that’s what people need to look at,” Lawrence said.
Al-Thibeh responded to this: “The main thing … is we really do want to engage in dialogue.”
Both co-presidents feel this is essential; if L4P doesn’t know what is offensive and Hillel doesn’t know why the posters are up, the cycle is unending.
Malin noted, “If hate wasn’t their main theme, and it was truly about human rights, then more Jewish and non-Jewish students would support them and be interested in engaging in a dialogue.”
However, Hillel hopes to continue dialogue with L4P in the future. Attia solidified the goal: “We just want to talk.”