Palestine Solidarity Committee

Professor Barbara Harlow and Professor Snehal Shingavi speak on the similarities between Ferguson, Missouri and Gaza, Palestine.

Photo Credit: Jenna VonHofe | Daily Texan Staff

The Palestine Solidarity Committee held a panel discussion on campus Wednesday, in which professors and students discussed the links between oppression in Ferguson, Missouri, and Gaza. 

During the event, which was co-sponsored by the Association of Black Psychologists and the Pre-Law National Black Law Students Association, assistant English professor Snehal Shingavi said the purpose of the event was to highlight the connections between the conflict in Gaza and Ferguson after police broke up protests over the shooting of African-American teen Michael Brown. 

“That would be the presence of massive militarized forces in dense urban settings and unarmed people fighting back with rocks and sticks against it,” Shingavi said. 

Elan Kogutt, co-president of Texans for Israel, criticized the event in an email as it was held at the start of Rosh Hashanah and said no members of Texans for Israel were in attendance. 

“Rosh Hashanah is a time for reflection and goal-setting for the coming year,” Kogutt said. “Rather than bringing our two communities closer to peace, this event serves as a regressive step away from dialogue and education, comparing two very distinct instances and failing to acknowledge the loss of innocent Israeli life and suffering of millions of Israelis under rocket fire this summer.”

Mohammed Nabulsi, first year law student and member of the committee, said his organization was not aware that Rosh Hashanah was that night and that the scheduling was not intentional. 

“We don’t plan our activities around holidays,” Nabulsi said. “As far as the Texans for Israel goes, the problem that the Palestine Solidarity Committee has with groups like this is that the ideology that they operate under is Zionism, and we can’t work with Zionism.”

Nabulsi said he thought the reason the struggles had been linked by both Palestinians and people of Ferguson is that they see a common humanity. 

“I think the most important thing said tonight is that the struggles for both Palestinian rights in Palestine and Israel and the struggle for rights of people of color in the U.S. are commonly linked by the fact that we are all human,” Nabulsi said. 

During the discussion, Shingavi said he was not arguing that the situations in Palestine and Ferguson were identical, but he wanted to discuss activism using the analytic tools of an academic context. 

“What I am going to be arguing is that if you are outraged by what the police did in Ferguson, you might want to get a closer look at what routinely happens in Palestine,” Shingavi said.

This article has been updated since its original publication.

Junior English major Zach Guerinot stands in support of Palestine during a protest Monday afternoon.

Photo Credit: Chelsea Purgahn | Daily Texan Staff

As the Israel-Gaza crisis becomes increasingly violent, people around the world and on the UT campus are paying more attention to it. Members of the UT community on multiple sides of the issue voiced their opinions Monday.

Roughly 20 students from the UT chapter of the International Socialist Organization and Palestine Solidarity Committee marched across campus Monday in support of residents of Gaza. They walked through the East, West and Main Malls as well as the halls of the Beauford H. Jester Center and the Student Activity Center chanting, “Free, free Palestine. Occupation is a crime.” Meanwhile, roughly 45 students from six organizations tabled on the West Mall in support of Israel.

These six organizations were Texans for Israel; College Republicans; Chabad Jewish Student Organization; Alpha Epsilon Pi, a fraternity that works to provide opportunities for Jewish men; the Latino and Jewish Student Coalition; and Texas Hillel, an educational Jewish center. 

The International Socialist Organization and Palestine Solidarity Committee set up tables on the West Mall as well.

Advocates on both sides of the issue worked to attract passing students to their table.

Tracy Frydberg, Middle Eastern studies and liberal arts honors sophomore and head of campus relations for Texans for Israel, said she has family in Israel and came out to support them and the other Israelis in fear for their lives.

She said the organization’s main goal in tabling was to better inform students of the issues surrounding the conflict.

“We are here to clarify, to answer questions, to be here as a resource for students on campus and to explain the issue and what is happening right now,” Frydberg said.

Frydberg said the more vocal approach to the situation taken by students from the International Socialist Organization and Palestine Solidarity Committee seemed ineffective to her as it didn’t educate people on the issues.

“We are not going to be doing anything like this,” Frydberg said. “These people are not here to clarify the situation. They are not explaining what is happening.”

Jonathon Orta, Latin American studies senior and member of the Palestine Solidarity Committee, said drawing more attention to the issue is necessary.

“It forces a dialogue to happen, and a dialogue that happens is often uncomfortable for some people,” Orta said. “Just as when the South was segregated, you had these protesters of the Civil Rights Movement fighting for integration, but those conversations had to happen ... the same conversations are what we are trying to have happen at UT.”

Journalism professor Robert Jensen spoke at the protest in support of the people of Gaza. He said the public must fully educate themselves on the issue since the situation’s history is essential for full understanding.

“You cannot understand what is happening in Gaza today without understanding one central fact — the occupation of Palestine by Israel,” Jensen said.

Ben Mendelson, government and liberal arts honors junior and chief financial officer for College Republicans, said he believes standing with Israel is an issue of safety, not politics.

“I don’t think it is an issue of political party,” Mendelson said. “There is overwhelming support on both sides of the aisle for American support of Israel.”

U.S. President Barack Obama and other politicians from both sides of the political spectrum have come out in support of Israel’s right to defend itself.

Protesters on both sides of the issue said they will be working more this week to advocate for their causes through similar efforts.