December 10, 2019

Israeli Apartheid Week at Occidental College Rattles Student

A panel on the apartheid wall at Occidental College shares misinformation about Israel. Courtesy of Twitter

A freshman at Occidental College has shared his story of how Israeli Apartheid Week, which is happening this week at the Los Angeles college, has affected him.

According to the Occidental student, who is 19-years-old, from Los Angeles and declined to be named out of fear it would lead to a difficult situation on campus, a student group called Jewish Student Union erected a wall on campus that falsely describes Israeli atrocities.

“They erected a wall panel showing how Israelis are killing refugees and the like; they are circulating articles saying how Zionism is connected to white supremacy and the like. I was hoping for a political dialogue here but I felt it was a personal affront against Zionism and Jews,” the student said in an April 9 phone interview.

According to the website of Occidental College, Israeli Apartheid Week at the college is focused on “Alternatives to Zionism and Jewish Political Identity.” The main groups involved are Jewish Student Union, which calls itself on Facebook a group “for self-identified progressive Jews at Oxy,” and Students for Justice in Palestine.

Events for Israeli Apartheid Week at Occidental began April 8 and continue until April 12.

The student was not sure how many other students are troubled by the displays.

Occidental has a Hillel but the organization does not get involved with these types of incidents on the campus, the student said.

According to the website of the Occidental College Hillel—aka Oxy Hillel—approximately 7-10% of students at the school are Jewish and anti-Israel attitudes are rare.

“There is not significant anti-Israel sentiment at Oxy,” the Oxy Hillel website says. “However, you should keep in mind that most Oxy students and professors tend to be more liberal and favor a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

The apartheid wall in the heart of the campus this week features a panel that has a concrete road and a dirt road, with the former for Jews and the latter for non-Jews. The panel says, “Israeli restrictions make it difficult or impossible for Palestinian Muslims and Christians to worship freely.” It also says Jews use “80% of water source” and non-Jews are “allowed 17% of water source.” It adds, ”Imagine segregation where the color of your license plate dictates which road you can drive on.”

Supporters of Israeli Apartheid Week have also been distributing a letter-to-the-editor published in the school’s newspaper that highlights “the ingrained racist and white supremacist ideology central to Zionism.”

The student chose to go to Occidental, a school with just over 2,000 undergraduates, over a larger college to feel a sense of belonging, but Israeli Apartheid Week has made school more lonely than ever, the student said.

“When I walked by that wall, I was so rattled and riled up it was hard for me to study for the rest of the night. I wanted to do something about it but I couldn’t think straight. The only thing that could calm me down is I wrote a 500-word essay on my computer and called it a night,” the student said. “I am a kind of a level-headed person. I don’t get too into these things that much, but when seen in-person it is completely different.”

On April 8, L.A. Rabbi Yonah Bookstein shared images of some of the material on display at Occidental on Twitter. Based on the images, organizers behind Israeli Apartheid Week at Occidental are distributing and displaying material that is comparing Zionism to white supremacy, highlighting segregation in Israel between Jews and non-Jews and saying Israel restricts the worship of non-Jewish people.