This year, Aryeh, the Zionist formation at Columbia, teamed up with ThinkIsrael, an arm of the Israeli government ministry of tourism, for their first ever Israel Week. They advertised this as “an apolitical celebration of a few distinct parts of Israeli society.”
SJP wanted to join in on the fun.
On 11/17/15, SJP members silently stood on Low Steps holding the following posters. The posters begin lighthearted and fun, appropriating the flippant language of Aryeh (and other groups that attempt to deflect attention from Israel’s human rights violations) by talking about the “fun,” “exotic” side of Israel.
By juxtaposing these offhand comments with serious issues like apartheid and ethnic cleansing, we hoped to make a broader point: that there can be no discussion of Israel’s “humanitarian aid” without a discussion of the humanitarian crises it creates. There can be no discussion of Israel’s “sustainability” without mention of Israel’s theft of water supplies from the countries surrounding it. There can be no “celebration of distinct parts of Israeli society” without even an acknowledgement that it is a settler colonial state predicated on the oppression of Palestinians. By selectively highlighting aspects of Israel that are palatable and appealing to the public, Aryeh is engaging in a project to deflect attention away from Israel’s war crimes, away from the ethnic cleansing of Palestine, away from apartheid, away from the oppression of Palestinians.
By standing on Low, we hoped to show the students of Columbia the painful irony of an “apolitical” celebration of Israel. There can be no celebration of Israel.
Celebrating Israel is celebrating apartheid.
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