Many students were surprised to wake up Wednesday to fliers warning that their suites would be demolished within three days.
Luckily, the eviction notices were not real. They were distributed by members of the group Students for Justice and Peace in Palestine to raise awareness about the plight of Palestinians whose homes are being demolished by the Israeli government. Though two students interviewed who received fliers under their doors said they were not affected by the campaign, a member of the Yale Hillel board and the co-president of Yale Friends of Israel criticized the fliers for being “counterproductive” and disrespectful.
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SJPP coordinator Omar Mumallah ’12 said in a press release that his organization aimed to startle Yalies and give them a sense of what evicted Palestinians must feel.
“I see no reason why the legitimate and well-documented grievances of Palestinians shouldn’t be a part of the discussion,” Mumallah said in a Thursday interview. “Every claim we made on the flier was predicated on reports by [Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch]. There is absolutely nothing hyperbolic about acknowledging the suffering incurred by a broken and discriminatory policy.”
Mumallah and other students in his organization, which also has chapters at other schools, including Georgetown and the University of Pittsburgh, passed the fliers under the doors of multiple colleges between 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. Tuesday, and the press release stated that hundreds of students had received the fliers.
The fliers’ headline told students that their suites would be demolished within three days — whether or not they chose to leave. In smaller print, the fliers explained that many Palestinians have faced a similar situation due to Israel’s settlement program in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip.
The back of the fliers stated that the “eviction notices” were not meant to be an attack on Israel or Israelis, but rather on the actions of the Israeli state. The handouts also advertised upcoming events that SJPP will hold, promising discussions of the Israeli-Palestinian issue “beyond the spin and hyperbole” that often obscure it.
Students interviewed in two of Yale’s Jewish organizations were bothered by the fliers, and said the campaign did not bring anything to the discourse about the issue that they and others are trying to foster at Yale.
“We try to act constructively and respectfully on these issues, not divisively and hyperbolically,” said Josh Kalla ’13, Israel Chair on the Hillel Board.
Kalla noted that when the David Horowitz Center, a pro-settlement organization, published an incendiary full-page advertisement in the News, the Slifka Center also published a full-page advertisement, criticizing the Horowitz Center’s approach to the debate.
Steven Morales ’13, co-president of the pro-Israeli umbrella organization Yale Friends of Israel, said he has sometimes found SJPP unwillingly to engage in conversation.
“Our organization has tried in the past,” he said. “We’ve invited them to numerous events, and they’ve been generally unreceptive. There was one event that just would have been a dinner between the two boards and they rebuffed that offer.”
SJPP representative Jackie Outka ’12 said the flyers were meant to begin a discussion, not end one.
“As an activist group, SJPP seeks to use a bunch of different techniques to educate Yalies about the lives of Palestinians, from talks given by professors to movie screenings to advocacy initiatives like the fliers,” Outka told the News.
Outka added that several students have told her that the fliers made them more interested in joining SJPP.
Both students interviewed who received the fliers said they did not fully read them.
“I was really confused at first, but I think I understand why they did it,” Helen McCreary ’13 said. “None of us have had our house randomly destroyed by the government.”
She added that she thought the SJPP chose an odd method to portray the problem of settlement.
Other students simply threw the flyers out before reading them.
“I only read the very beginning of it and I just assumed it was a prank, like a Pundit thing, because obviously Yale isn’t going to demolish our rooms,” Ali Abarca ’13 said.
Tonight at 8 p.m., SJPP will screen the film “To Shoot an Elephant,” about Israeli military action in Gaza, in William L. Harkness Hall.