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Students for Justice in Palestine protests Loyola-Israel Student Alliance ‘Taste of Israel’

A group of nearly 50 Loyola students led by the Loyola chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) gathered outside of Damen Student Center (6511 N. Sheridan Rd.) to protest a Loyola-Israel Student Alliance (LISA) event Nov. 10.

The LISA event was hosted in the Damen Den and featured Hungarian, Moroccan and “Arab” cuisine — including Palestinian foods — among others, to represent “cultural integration” in Israel’s population, according to the group’s secretary treasurer Itai Kleiman. 

The demonstration outside of the event started around 6:30 p.m. with the organizers from SJP attempting to recreate conditions Palestinians face when traveling through the borders of Israel into Palestinian territories near the southern entrance of Damen.

The group was arbitrarily split into “Palestinians” and “Israelis,” while the organizers shouted conflicting orders at the students deemed “Palestinians.” While this was going on, students shared stories of their firsthand experiences while trying to cross the Israeli border. Dunyah Abulaban, SJP’s president, said the experience was meant to immerse students.

Zack Miller | The Phoenix Dunyah Abulaban, SJP’s president, addresses a crowd of protesters outside Damen Student Center Nov. 10.

“We have to let them come see,” Abulaban, a senior psychology major, said. “It’s a vulnerable space where we’re just sharing our lives, our stories with everybody.”

After this was finished, protesters were then handed sheets of paper with a name and age on them, as well as an electric tea candle. Each sheet — which represented the minors killed during the conflict that occurred in the region earlier this year — was read aloud while the candles were placed on the ground.

Zack Miller | The Phoenix Protestors hold signs with the names and ages of Palestinian children lost to conflict in Gaza earlier this year.

In May 2021, thousands of Chicagoans took to the streets multiple times to demonstrate against Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories and its displacement of Palestinians within Israeli borders. As recently as Oct. 27, Israel had recently approved 3,000 new settler homes in the West Bank.

Palestinian families living in the East Jerusalem neighborhood Sheikh Jarrah also recently rejected an offer from the Israeli Supreme Court that would’ve allowed them to remain in their homes uncontested for the next 15 years if they conceded ownership and paid rent to Israeli settlers, the Associated Press (AP) reported.

Protests and subsequent clashes with police in the same neighborhood led to this year’s 11-day Gaza war in which 230 Palestinians were killed — including 65 children — and 1,710 more injured, while 12 people in Israel were killed, the AP reported

To conclude the protest, demonstrators taped their signs to the glass outer wall of the Damen Den while Abulaban spoke to the crowd for a few minutes. The group, then at its peak, chanted slogans like “end the occupation now” and “free, free Palestine” before disbanding.

Zack Miller | The Phoenix Demonstrators hold signs with the names and ages of Palestinian children killed during conflict in Gaza earlier this year.

Dean of Students Will Rodriguez had a brief disagreement with the SJP organizers, objecting when they instructed protesters to tape their signs to the glass wall. He told The Phoenix the administration’s role is to “support” student demonstrations, but also to ensure they follow certain guidelines.

He declined to comment specifically on the Nov. 10 demonstration, citing it as an “ongoing” situation.

Kleiman said while he “respected all opinions,” he felt the demonstration was “disrespectful.”

“I feel bad for the students who wanted to just stop by to get food and might deviate from wanting to do that when kids are outside protesting against it,” Kleiman, a sophomore biology major, said. “So I think that was kind of disrespectful. … That’s why there’s a distance [between] a protest and an event that’s Loyola-sponsored.”

SJP leaders also accused LISA’s event of cultural appropriation because of their use of Palestinian foods.

Zack Miller | The Phoenix The Loyola-Israel Student Alliance’s “Taste of Israel” featured food from several backgrounds, representing “cultural integration” in Israel, according to LISA secretary treasurer Itai Kleiman.

“I would love to have a conversation with people on both sides if they’d be willing to have that conversation,” Kleiman said. 

While Abulaban said she would also love to start a dialogue with the students in LISA, she said her and other students in SJP struggle with it because of their personal experiences with the Israeli government and the power dynamic that exists between Israel and Palestinians. 

“For us to have a conversation, there has to be ‘two sides,’” Abulaban said. “The problem with this conflict is that there aren’t two sides. There’s the oppressed and the oppressors.”

“We would also love to have these conversations. … [but] it is very difficult for us to sit down with people who support those who oppressed our families.”

In 2015, the Student Government of Loyola passed a resolution to divest from companies profiting off of Israeli occupation of Palestinian land after a tense round of public comments, The Phoenix reported.

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