USF students remember the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians

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Last Friday, around one hundred people gathered at USF Tampa to commemorate the anniversary of the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians. The Nakba event was organized by the Students for Justice in Palestine.

Each year on May 15, Palestinians remember the “Day of the Catastrophe” or Nakba. This day marks the 1948 displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their homelands and the establishment of the state of Israel.

Independent journalist Rania Khalek and local activist Dezeray Lyn talked about the Israel-Palestine conflict from 1948 up to the present day.

Khalek criticized the American mainstream media for being “biased” in covering the conflict in Gaza last year.

“In American mainstream media, it was framed as almost every single conflict ever, every single act of violence perpetuated against Palestinians is framed – which is that Palestinians did something first and Israel is retaliating. That is still the narrative that you see coming of the mainstream media. Even if Israel kills an entire family or kills 5 children, or 10 children, or 19 children as this one case in one air strike. It’s still Israel responding to Hamas rocket fire. That’s still the narrative that you get told.”

But despite traditional media coverage, Khalek hails social media as a source of unfiltered information from people.

“The actual scenes of devastation that you see coming from Twitter and Facebook from Palestinians themselves on the ground. One interesting thing that I noticed actually last summer that was different is because of Twitter, mainstream journalists that were on the ground in Gaza – even the New York Times and the Washington Post – were posting their thoughts and photos unfiltered before their article would go up, before it would go through some editor. And so you were kind of getting a deeper level of truth.

“I think social media is being used really, really well to change the narrative. Absolutely, by Palestinians and by people here.”

Khalek also relates the situation in Gaza to current issues in America – racism, in particular.

“America’s still a deeply, deeply racist and divided society. It’s not as in your face. We don’t have explicit Jim Crow laws anymore but we have mass incarceration that acts the way Jim Crow did in lots of very similar ways and felon disenfranchisement that affects almost entirely black people in this country. Police brutality, one black person killed in this country every 28 hours. You have immigrants in this country, mostly Latino, almost entirely Latino being rounded up into what we like to call immigrant detention. They’re not being charged with actual crimes for the most part they’re being rounded up waiting for deportation proceedings. In large ways they’re being concentrated. I don’t see a difference between that and internment camps.”

Meanwhile, while delivering her speech about traveling to Palestine, local activist Dezeray Lyn tried to fight back tears as she recalled the atrocities that she witnessed.

“One of the images that’s gonna continue to haunt me, especially on Fridays, is the violence and the injuries that I saw every single Friday at demonstrations in different villages where Palestinians were shot. One shot in the face, one shot in the eye, and then dozens of them shot in the legs. The constant violence and injuries that they’re sustaining, not to mention the projectiles the teargasings. That’s something that’s very upsetting and that I’ll remember every single Friday that I am not in Palestine that this is what’s happening due to their resistance to the continued occupation of their land.”

And although ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict seems to be an insurmountable task, Lyn believes that if everyone unites and boycotts Israeli products, ending the conflict is possible.

“The only way that we as people can actually have a difference, and it’s in our hands, is if we mass boycott Israel. That means the ship, the Zim integrated shipping services. That means all their products, their cars, anything that comes from Israel. We need to not only boycott it but let it be known why we’re boycotting so we can spread the word and densely populate the BDS movement here. So we can start making changes, so we can actually have an effect where our government have completely failed, and not only failed but knowingly paid for and being complicit in the atrocities that are happening there.”