“Nothing Normal About It”: A Students for Justice in Palestine Comic

I am pleased to present one of the first resources to come out of the the National Students for Justice in Palestine Conference. “Nothing Normal About It,” a comic I worked on with cartoonist and solidarity activist Ethan Heitner, was made in part for one of the skill-building workshops held on October 16: The Question of Palestine in the Public Sphere: How to (and how not to) talk about Palestine.

An excerpt of a comic made to explore the issue of normalization for student groups in solidarity with Palestinian rights.

Before you take a look at the comic I’d like to share a bit of background…   

As a member of a Palestine solidarity organization on campus, I’ve often been faced with the issue of normalization.  Zionist student groups and their supporters across the board have asked us with nagging persistence:

Why don’t both our groups come together and dialogue? Why does your group have a problem with “civil discourse?” Why don’t you “talk like a human being?” Why don’t we go have some falafel…you like falafel too, right? How about we do an event together and discuss both our perspectives?

At first glance, the above questions seem harmless, and occasionally, inviting. But after spending both my undergraduate and graduate years fielding the same tired questions from different Zionist groups (and even well-meaning non-Zionists who find it appealing to take it upon themselves to bring Palestine solidarity groups and Zionist groups together), I firmly came to the same conclusion as many other students: normalization is a bad idea.

But what is normalization?

Normalization as defined by the BNC in a statement written by Palestinian Youth Against Normalization, is: “participating in any project, initiative or activity whether locally or internationally, that is designed to bring together-whether directly or indirectly- Palestinian and/or Arab youth with Israelis (whether individuals or institutions) and is not explicitly designed to resist or expose the occupation and all forms of discrimination and oppression inflicted upon the Palestinian people.” The full text of the statement can be found here.

Taking the lead from Palestinian students actually suffering from the brutality of the Israeli military occupation, increasing numbers of Students for Justice in Palestine chapters have found normalization deeply problematic. However, whether officially endorsed by individual SJP chapters or not, an anti-normalization stance does little to address the problem of how to make the issue of normalization easily understood. How can we explain normalization, its meaning and its consequences to a general audience? How can we better understand the implications of normalization ourselves? And that’s where the art comes in. I approached my good friend Ethan with the idea of making a comic, and many months later, “Nothing Normal About It” was born.

The comic is Copyright Creative Commons 2011, which means it’s free for use to any Palestine solidarity group.

To read the online version of the cartoon, click here.

A PDF copy for printing and distribution (among your members, for tabling at events, etc), along with instructions for assembly, is available here.

For more of Ethan Heitner’s amazing comics (BDS, settlements, Right of Return, and more), check out his website.

Enjoy!

In Solidarity,

Tanya Keilani
Columbia University SJP
The Ad Hoc National SJP Conference Planning Committee

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